The Sting

The lunch was vegan 3 bean and soyrizo chili & tortilla chips. The Movie was The Sting from 1973.

~~~

Darcy says:

Unsung Heroes – The Sting

Best Picture 1973

Oh those loveable rogues! Not since Elliot Ness rounded up Al Capone – hey, wait a minute – how come there was only one Italian American character in the Sting? Are we to believe Chicago was run by the Irish? I thought the Irish were the crooked cops. Is this non-PC enough yet? The Sting beat out Viskningar och rop by Ingmar Bergman to take top honors. I am outraged on behalf of the Muppet Chef who might have said, “inge furdi gurti vishni singe hurde Svedish meatbole,” which means, “There’s something rotten in Denmark.” American Graffiti was in the running but it decided to spawn Happy Days instead.

The minute you walked in the joint,

I could see you were a man of distinction,

A real big spender,

Good looking, so refined.

Say, wouldn’t you like to know

What’s going on in my mind?

Cy Coleman / Dorothy Fields

Newman and Redford were the cat’s pajamas in 73 and Eileen Brennan was channeling the sultry Tallulah Bankhead to make a period piece that was nothing like the period, but who cares – it was fun and we all sported large lapels and Fedoras for a few months after the Sting was released.

Dimitra Arliss, of Greek parentage, played the only person with an Italian last name and her dark character was notably threatening in such a lighthearted film, but a waitress’s lot is not a happy one..

On The Good Ship Lollipop.

It’s a sweet trip to a candy shop

Where bon-bons play

On the sunny beach of Peppermint Bay.

Richard  A. Whiting, Sidney Clare

The least they could have done was have Shirley Temple singing on the radio as the contract killer prepared to shoot Robert Redford.

Overall it was nice to see it once again and a bit of fun still best pictah? Go figure. Out of 10 maybe 6.

~~~

Eric says:

I love a con movie. I’ve been fairly obsessed with con-artists for years. Going into this movie, I didn’t realize that it was about a con. With the name, I thought it was a cop drama or something. It was slightly confusing to think about it being set in the Depression, but I was willing to go along with it. As soon as I realized what the scope of the film was I got much more excited about watching it!

Redford as the young, handsome upstart grifter, and Newman as the old, washed up, handsome former grifter works really well.

The overarching conceit of the film, of having to essentially avenge the death of the older grifter that Redford’s character was a partner to, works pretty well, too. There are some interesting moments that call into question the value of revenge, and if it’s good for anything. The story seemed to hinge more on the idea that the mob boss responsible for Redford’s former partner’s death had some kind of punishment coming, and the grifters who pulled this scam on him were the only ones who could have. The idea of “living well as the best revenge” kept playing through my head, and I suppose that grifting a killer is living well, if you’re a grifter. They continued to live their best lives and make a score more to remember their friend, punish his killer and teach him a lesson, as opposed to doing so to get rich. When put into context of the Great Depression, that was a pretty interesting way to frame it.

Sound in this movie is really interesting. From the song (played over and over again in different ways), to the opening scene and the footsteps that seem to echo and draw the viewer in, to the sound of water when we meet Henry (Paul Newman).

The costumes were pretty great. Menswear in the 1930s done well. Fullard ties and patterned shirts – always looks legit. Indeed it inspired some sartorial choices of my own for the following week.

There were some really striking shots (especially dealing with the use of reflections) that made this a pretty fantastic thing to watch. It wasn’t overly artsy, but there was enough good film making to count, if that makes sense.

This movie felt quickly paced but not rushed. It didn’t seem just over 2 hours. I was entertained and enjoyed myself. A bit of film-making seemed to creep into this as well.

Watching this movie resulted in a rather interesting and hard to describe discussion about the passage of time and of perception that I won’t attempt to get into here for all of our sakes. That said, this film succeeded on many levels, including that often difficult to describe level of making you have a great conversation afterward.

Was this film a 10? No, but it was good. Really good, actually. I’d probably watch this again and be very happy about it. Rating: 8.5

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Chariots of Fire

The movie was Chariots of Fire. The dinner was Indian take-away from Taj Mahal. (It was a movie about England, after all.)

Eric says:

This was a good movie. There are problematic elements to it in some ways, yes, but overall, it’s good. It was creatively shot, for one thing. I feel like that alone made it stand out in interesting and noteworthy ways. Likewise, the whole narrative structure was kind of crazy (a flashback, a flashback within a flashback, a flashforward in the flashback…needless to say there was a great deal of flashing), but it worked. The ending shots of the crowd in the church shifting from early 20th century dress to late 1970s dress was very cool.

I run, so there were parts of this that I found interesting and fun. I don’t, nor have I ever, ran proper track events, so there’s that. But still, it stirs something in ya. Likewise, that soundtrack. It’s wonderful. I forgot how synth it was, but it’s great. And the whole musical score, mixing the iconic theme (that shot of the whole team running down the beach that bookends the film), with the Gilbert and Sullivan stuff was great, too.

The idea that this is a story of two men of different faiths who use running in some way to help them along their path in life is intriguing. The discrimination that Abrahams faces as a Jew is horrible and it’s really interesting to tell a story that basically explains how he wants to beat everybody at something to prove to them, and himself, and the world, that he’s great. The idea that Liddell won’t run on the Sabbath is a great plot device, but it just made me annoyed. That’s my own thing. I get it. It’s a question of ideals and having a personal code…and I did love that he told everyone who was in charge that he wasn’t going to do what they told him. THAT was great. But it still had a lot of limitations.

All that said, it was a bit strange to think of this as a Best Picture winner. After watching five of these, that stretch over five different decades, I can say I honestly don’t know what constitutes an Oscar Winning Best Picture. Maybe some pattern will emerge as I watch more of these, but wow…talk about things being all over the map.

Things I liked:

The soundtrack, the training montages, the shots of England and Scotland, the costumes.

Things I didn’t like:

There were two women in this film, neither one doing much more than complaining that the men want to run. That was pretty weak. It’s basically a story of how the rich can be so cool and do such great stuff. That was pretty weak.

Would I watch it again? No, probably not. Was it worth it? Sure. If you haven’t seen this, take a look. If you are a runner, or an anglophile, you’ll like parts of it.

Rating: 6/10

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These newer films are tricky to find non-copyright covered images! This is a picture of the Chariots of Fire race that happens in England…The annual 5k that takes place on West Sands St Andrews (while the theme is played!).

~~~

Darcy says:

Swing Low Sweet Chariots of Fire
Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
-Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Well, I don’t know why I came here tonight
I got the feeling that something ain’t right
I’m so scared in case I fall off my chair,
And I’m wondering how I’ll get down those stairs
Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right,
Here I am, stuck in the middle with you
-Gerald Rafferty, Joe Egan
Jokers to the left, here I am, stuck in the middle of this movie.
Oh the joys of watching plucky brave British lads facing down impossible odds for king
and country. You just have to admire the constant deflowering of the flowers of British
manhood in American film. Well you do, because we Americans put them up there being
admirable and this picture makes bloody sure you join the exuberant crowds of football
hooligans, I mean athletic supporters, I mean fans of British sport. Do not miss the nasty
Frog tripping the flying Scotsman who recovers to win the race. Don’t miss the
tenacious Jewish upstart who challenges Dumbledore, er. Gandalf, I mean Sir John
Gielgud. This is an homage to nationalistic fervor that built and lost the Titanic, the rigid
airship R101, the Tay Bridge and the largest empire the world has ever seen.
There’ll always be an England
While there’s a country lane
Wherever there’s a cottage small
Beside a field of grain
-Ross Parker and Hughie Charles
It is certainly gorgeous and full of beautiful people like a white supremacist take on
Franko Zeffirelli. Perhaps if I were a sports fan, my father was deficient in the Y-
chromosome gene for sports that most human males seem to carry, this movie would
motivate me to strive for excellence. Alas, dad never bought me PF Flyers or took me
out to throw stuff at me teaching me to catch baseballs with my face. I just find it hard to
care about people who run faster and jump higher.
This is sort of a recruiting film for Nigel Farage’s UK Independence party promoting the
idea that cigarette smoking ale drinking English once exceled at sports and could once
more. Of course those clean living Sabbath abiding Europe promoting Scots are not
English.Theological note: The sabbath is Saturday, not Sunday. Sunday is little Easter
where Jesus did not lie around resting but was up telling us all to look busy. Also,
Mark 2:27
​“Then Jesus told them, ‘The Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath.’”
Sadly it was necessary to recruit Ian Holm Cuthbert, son of Jean Wilson (née Holm) and
James Harvey Cuthbert, to play Sam Mussabini because there were no Italian or Arab
actors in the British Isles at the time and Warner Oland was no longer available to do his
amazing cross ethnic impersonations.
Speaking of cross something impersonations, someone in the audience pointed out that
a naked guy under a towel professing love and, dare I say affection, for another guy
who seemed riveted on his every word, was a bit of, you know, nudge nudge, wink wink,
say no more. Well it was certainly all that but not much more.
Let us say if 10 is the best then this film goes about 50 meters to a 5
~~~

How Green Was My Valley

The day was Easter Sunday. The Dinner was Chinese take away from Lin’s Garden, a family tradition. The movie was How Green was My Valley.
It was gonna get a bit Welsh.
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Darcy says:
*In the interest of full disclosure, Darcy’s email to me containing this review had the subject line “How Green Was My Valium.”*
Uncle Ianto’s Cabin, I mean,
How Green Was My Valley, won best picture in February 1942, three months after Pearl Harbor. Since the Germans were bombing the hell out of Wales the movie was shot in Hollywood. It’s hard to make Hollywood look like Wales so they shot the film in black and coal mine. Did no one think to look at eastern Pennsylvania where all those Welsh immigrants settled because it reminded them of the slag piles back home? Anyway, the fake sets were a good backdrop to a story told by a ten year old with all the insights of a nine year old, who was, as Devo put it,
Workin’ in the coal mine
Goin’ on down, down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Oops, about to slip down
My guess is the movie and the subsequent award were by way of an apology to Great
Britain for letting them dangle under Hitler’s Luftwaffe for two years before the Japanese shoved us into the fray to save freedom’s bacon. As Churchill supposedly said,
“Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing…after they have exhausted
all other possibilities.”
So, at the outset we see the scaffolding over the mine and we know without doubt at
some point there will be a disaster underground but heigh ho, heigh ho, those funny jolly
Welsh go down to the pit.
We dig up diamonds by the score
A thousand rubies, sometimes more
But we don’t know what we dig ’em for
As my Welsh granny used to say, “If I knew what was going to happen I would have
stood in bed.” The soul of a people is hard to put on film without it being maudlin and somehow insincere. These were gentle lives lived in difficult times and somehow it gets treated like the people’s story in a Soviet era propaganda film. What might a remake say that this film was unable to voice?
My tears are like the quiet drift
Of petals from some magic rose;
And all my grief flows from the rift
Of unremembered skies and snows.
I think, that if I touched the earth,
It would crumble;
It is so sad and beautiful,
So tremulously like a dream.
Dylan Thomas
This one gets around a 3 because it could have been so much better. Many of the
actors were superb the story was worth telling but something made it feel like Hollywood presentations of the antebellum south – they just didn’t get it. I truly loved Roddy McDowall providing window dressing as he recovered from the mysterious malady one contracts while flailing around in icy water with his mom – they were on the bridge and then whoops they’d fallen in the water. Walter Pidgeon’s character supposedly arrived from Cardiff – by his accent we assume it was Cardiff by the Sea in sourthern California.
As to the rest, they tried. The Welsh National Choir did jolly well and some of us even
sang along.
Cymru am byth!
~~~
How-Green-Was-My-Valley-1941.jpg
Eric says:
How Green was My Valley – 1941
There was singing in Welsh! And Darcy knew some of the songs and sang along and that was wonderful.
Approximately 2 days later this movie finished up. For being under two hours, this film seemed to last for days. There were real moments of cinematic beauty. The tableau of the boxer and his side kick sitting under the wall…the one at the end with Huw holding his father’s body in the coal elevator…real powerful, and beautiful stuff! And there was some real humor and emotion at times. Beth Morgan, the matriarch of the family, was a great character. I loved how she went from a one dimensional background character to an emotive, bold, amazing character through the film.
Then we made the mistake of looking at what this film beat in 1941. Only a couple of no-name pictures I’m sure you’ve never heard of…Citizen Kane, and The Maltese Falcon. At this point I checked out. NOPE.
No way. This is a fine example of a kind of sentimental, period piece. How it can stand up to the film making of the two films mentioned above is beyond me. This film pales by comparison.
So, is it worth watching? Sure. If you like classic cinema, give it a go. It feels a hell of a lot longer than 2 hours. Will I watch it again? No, but I WILL watch Citizen Kane and The Maltese Falcon again, so that should tell you something.
Rating 5/10 (mostly because of the singing, and frank discussion of socialism and union organization)
~~~
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Bethany says:
How Green was my Valley (1941) – was nominated for ten Academy Awards, famously beating Citizen Kane for Best Picture along with winning Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Supporting Actor
Things I liked:
Well, it was about Wales and I come from Welsh extraction so I was initially interested in the general story.
There was lots of music & singing which I enjoyed. As a minister’s daughter many of the Welsh hymns seemed familiar to me.
Favorite scene: After a beating by the cruel teacher Mr. Jonas , Dai Bando (a boxer from the village) avenges Huw (our young narrator & main character) with an impromptu boxing display on Mr. Jonas to the delight of his pupils.
Things I did NOT like:
This film is much too long. I found myself lying on the floor at one point crying ‘I don’t care about my heritage anymore.’

Spoilers: Ivor (Huw’s oldest brother) marries a woman named Bronwyn. On the day that Bronwyn gives birth to their child, Ivor is killed in a mining accident. All of Huw’s other brothers leave the country because they can’t find work. Angharad (Huw’s only sister) submits to a loveless marriage to Evans (the son of the mine owner), and they relocate out of the country. Huw is awarded a scholarship to university, but to his father’s dismay he refuses it to work in the mines. I don’t even want to talk about how Huw who is like what? Maybe 12 at the time decides to move in w/ his brother’s widow to help provide for her and her child. As if all of that isn’t depressing enough at the end of the movie Huw’s dad dies in a mining accident. So basically the only good thing about the damn valley was that it was green and by the time our dear Huw is finally leaving it’s not even green anymore.
Rating: 4 out of 10. It wasn’t great. I probably will not watch it again. How in the hell did this beat Citizen Kane?

All About Eve

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Dinner was 5 Spice Chickpea Udon Noodle Bowls from the amazing cookbook Protein Ninja. The movie was All About Eve.

Eric says:

All About Eve

1950

After the last couple of real clunkers this was a welcome change of pace! Bette Davis is marvelous. This movie (where the iconic “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night” comes from) is just so good. All around. It’s weird enough, thought provoking enough, and well made enough, to be a classic in every sense. This film doesn’t seem 67 years old. It holds up so well.

George Saunders is brilliant as Addison Dewitt. I still can’t tell if I love him, or hate him, or something in between. That’s where this film succeeds so well – the in-between places. No character is really all that good or blameless or wonderful. All flawed, the four leads muddle through a supposed glamourous life like a bunch of high school kids in search of the next affirmation that they are cool enough, or hanging out with the right people.

Then we have Eve.

Eve is so infuriating and gross. I love it. Expertly played by Anne Baxter, the role of Eve Harrington is beautiful. From the poor little match girl act of the beginning to the tired diva of the closing, she is horrible and wonderful.

I absolutely love how woman-centric this film is. It’s funny, witty, smart and crazy and it’s like a suspense film wrapped up in a drama. Also, the sheer amount of smoking in this movie is insane.

As a bonus, as if this wasn’t good enough already, a young Marilyn Monroe as Miss Caswell is fantastic. I love it. She is smart and funny and wonderful.

This movie was made the same year as Sunset Blvd (an absolute favorite of mine) and it shares a lot of the same devices and themes. Both are almost all essentially flashbacks, which is a cool device. The self-reflectiveness of Hollywood at a time when the first wave of superstars was aging, looking at how we view fame, stardom, wealth, fanaticism, femininity, masculinity, loneliness, and what it means to be alone…both films do a great job of getting into all of these things. Sunset Blvd was up for Best Picture that year as well, and while part of me wishes THAT had won, All About Eve is fantastic.

If it wasn’t Sunset Blvd for best Picture in 1950, I’m glad it was All About Eve.

Rating 9.5/10

~~~

Darcy says:

All About Eve
“Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”
Claudette Colbert was brilliant as aging thespian, Margo Channing, playing against
ingénue, Anne Baxter, who was cast because of her resemblance to Colbert. Well that’s
what the film’s producer had in mind, but Claudette was otherwise occupied so they had
to cast someone else. We might have watched Gloria Swanson vamping along
Sunset Boulevard last Sunday if they had chosen anyone but the queen of snark to star in
All About Eve. Some films are so actor dependent as to be impossible to imagine
otherwise, like Oz without Judy; Tara without Vivien; Manderley without Judith
Anderson.
“And she’ll tease you
She’ll unease you
All the better just to please you
She’s precocious and she knows just
What it takes to make a pro blush
She got Greta Garbo stand off sighs”
Donna Weiss, Jackie De Shannon
Be warned, this is Hollywood’s view of Broadway. You get Hollywood’s idea of
Broadway’s view of Hollywood when characters disappear into a hellish vortex out west
only to return to New York with pots of money when they’ve come to their senses. It
professes an introspective eye but there is a certain amount of jaundice and vitriol in the
overblown portrayal of “Theatah People,” For one thing you never see them act. The
stage is just a snake pit where Eve and Margo get to slither and hiss. Who knows what
kind of plays they were putting on? Why these plays were so successful is also a
mystery. More than anything, where did Eve learn to act? After all, Celeste Holm was
the only one completely taken in by Eve’s innocent shrinking violet character. Bette,
George, and us in the audience didn’t fall for little miss innocence. We all know Eve
didn’t eat the apple she made a pie and gobbled it all with ice cream and chocolate
sauce. However, she must have picked up a few pointers on her way to New Haven in
order to graciously receive the Sarah Siddons, (Welsh actress who died in 1831), award
in 1950. Strangely; the first such award was given to Helen Hayes in 1953.
“If you covered him with garbage
George Sanders would still have style”
Ray Davies
George Sanders pretends to play a man in the movie, difficult if you’re Beelzebub in a
bow time. One suspects he moved on from fleecing old ladies to writing columns using
Dorothy Parker’s dictum, ““The first thing I do in the morning is brush my teeth and
sharpen my tongue.”
Pursuant to Stanislavski’s, “no small parts only small actors,” George shows up at
the party with a blond bimbonic actress who turns out to be an honest Eve. Like Gary
Cooper in Wings, Marilyn drops in and out rather quickly but thereafter the film seems to miss her like a jilted lover.
“You had the grace to hold yourself
While those around you crawled
Goodbye Norma Jean”
Elton John
There are some other men in the film. They know their lines and look good in suits and
tuxedos providing window dressing for the star.
“But stand close by Bette Davis
Because hers was such a lonely life”
Ray Davies
So is it really a ten? Probably not, but it is so much fun and so over the top you just
gotta love it.
~~~

The Broadway Melody (1928/1929)

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Dinner was tofu pot pie (our family recipe adapted from the New Farm Cookbook). The movie was The Broadway Melody.

Bethany says:

The Broadway Melody
(1929) – firstsound filmwinner of theBest Picture Academy Award
Things I liked:
The opening scene was wonderful. Because sound was so new having so many musical acts all performing at the same time must have been thrilling. It the 1st
time we hear the title song “The Broadway Melody” and the energy made me think I was in for a veryentertaining film. (Sadly, I wasn’t see ‘Things I didn’t like’ below)
Once again parts of this film seemed very homoerotic even though the 2 main characters
are supposed to be sisters they are extremely physically affectionate with each other. This begs the question: Were people much more physically expressive with each other in the 1920s or because of the acting needed to express emotion in silent films were actors still being told to show their emotions rather than say them?
One of my current favorite films Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is also
set in 1920s New York and also features 2 sisters. In The Broadway Melody we have Harriet “Hank” Mahoney the older sister who prides herself on her business sense and talent, while her younger sister Queenie Mahoney is lauded for her beauty. In Fantastic Beast we have Tina Goldstein who is described as grounded and down-to-earth and Queenie Goldstein who is Tina’s younger sister and roommate, described as a bombshell, free-spirited, and big-hearted. In both films “Queenie” the younger sister is blond, tall, beautiful and a hit w/ the fellas. Whereas Harriet (Broadway) and Tina (Beasts) the older sisters are both brunette, short, cute and seem to fade into the background of their seemingly more beautiful sisters. These similarities can’t be mere coincidence.
The costumes, by no means breathtaking were very comical & over the top.
There are few scenes that are close-ups on the actors’ faces & it seems at these moments
that they forgot they were making a talking picture because the facial expressions are
intense & more like you would find when watching a silent picture. This makes sense when considering that according to Wikipedia: A silent version of the film was also released, as there were still many motion picture theaters without sound equipment at the time.
This film made me very happy that I’m an only child.
Things I did NOT like:
There are only 7 musical numbers in this musical & they are all awful, made even worse by the fact that we hear “Broadway Melody” about 4 different times & it’s only good the 1st time.
Being a woman in the 1920s must have been very hard because even though Quennie is so very beautiful (a fact that we are reminded of every 2 – 5 minutes) her only options seem to be to either marry her sister’s fiancé there by breaking her heart or to be raped by the ‘playboy’ Jock who happily buys her diamonds, gets her own apartment & then gets really rough with her when she isn’t prepared to have sex with him during her birthday party.
Harriet “Hank” Mahoney the older sister gives up Eddie, the love of her life, so he can go be with her oh-so-beautiful sister Quennie. There is no Hollywood ending for Hank she goes back on the road w/ a 30 week traveling show, a life style that one character describes as a ‘tramp.’ As if Eddie was the only man in the world, whatever, he was awful too. His only redeeming quality is that he seems to be less rapey than Jock.
To make matters worse when Queenie and Eddie return from their honeymoon Quennie
insists that Harriet “Hank” live with them in their new house on Long Island when her job is over. Thank the gods & goddesses that good old Hank refuses, but not before kissing her now brother in-law/former fiancé on the lips. What the what???
Rating: 4 out of 10. It wasn’t great. I probably will not watch it again.
~~~~
Darcy says:

Broadway Melody

The second academy award went to Broadway Melody. One hopes it was released in time for Thanksgiving because the smell of turkey was heavy in the air. Turkey with lots of stuffing tends to put a person to sleep as witnessed by the title card artist dropping off half way through the film so we ceased to be informed where we were and why. From a later parody of these first musicals,, Singing In the Rain, I join Gene Kelly in crooning,

“Let the stormy clouds chase.
Everyone from the place”

Anita Page and Bessie Love as the Maloney Mahoney sisters actually had moments where they remembered they were actors. Crosby and Hope were a little more believable as the Haynes Sisters singing,

Sisters, sisters

There were never such devoted sisters

Never had to have a chaperon, no sir

I’m here to keep my eye on her

Caring, sharing

Every little thing that we are wearing

When a certain gentleman arrives from Rome

She wore the dress and i stayed home

Meanwhile in Weimar Germany’s cabaret culture, Lotte Lenya and Kurt Weill were preparing the Three Penny Opera. The real Broadway featured George and Ira Gershwin’s mix of Parisian settings and jazz music for An American in Paris. None of their talents made an impression on the folks at MGM who figured the audience would be wowed by all da noise and funk. We were awed by the character, Jaques Wariner, played by Pittsburgh native Kenneth Thomson.He seems to have wondered over from an audition for Dracula by way of the Warner Brothers Lot sporting a random sampling of Bela Lugosi’s accent and formal attire.

But honestly,

I’ll never know

What made it so exciting.

Why all at once my heart took flight.

I only know when he

Began to dance with me.

I could have danced, danced danced all night! Lerner & Loewe 1955

And the cast did look like they had danced all night the night before filming thanks to George Cunningham’s “choreography,” he later emerged  to direct 1942’s “blockbuster” (it was a very short block) hit, Bearcat Mountain Gal. He should definitely not be confused with Merce Cunningham a choreographer who choregraphed actual dance numbers where the dancers danced.

The tippy tippy top scene of the film featured the amazing and cringe worthy toe tapping ballet dancer whose metatarsals must have been made of steel.

A shining musical moment was produced by a guitar quartet who should have been hired to accompany the rest of the film.

Irving Thalberg’s producer credit might well have contributed to his early demise in 1936 at the age of 37.

The plot echoed the famous play, Dames At Sea, best seen in truly incompetent local theater productions, but then moves into torrid territory like Joel Gray sang in Cabaret,

Deedle dee, dee dee dee…

Two ladies.

Deedle dee, dee dee dee,

Und he’s the only man

Ja!

Is there any rating below 1?

~~~~

 Eric says:

The Broadway Melody (1928/1929)

To be honest, this is a bit more what I expected from the earlier titles in the Best Picture catalog. This is a talkie, which was a nice break from the world of Wings…but man…were they ever excited to use sound. The first scene, especially, is just ALL sound, including all of the sounds. Bit rough.

The music. The song Broadway Melody is played at least 3 if not 4 times, and it’s the first 3 songs you hear. That was a bit much. That said, the first version (the “practice” version while they are writing the song) is probably the best. Likewise, the guitar quartet number a bit later at Queenie’s birthday bash is fantastic! Everything else…less so. I’m generally not a fan of musicals, and one of the reasons for that is the conceit of the musical world is that songs happen at points in one’s life where, in my admittedly limited experience, they simply don’t. However, the setup for this film is that the people involved are all musicians and performers, and the large portion of the songs are stage numbers, or “rehearsals” and it all seems so much more believable and reasonable to me.

That’s about the only thing that is reasonable.

Anita Page as Queenie and Bessie Love as Hank are both super dreamy and lovely and bounce back and forth between doing some excellent acting, and doing some base mugging for the camera. I still liked them both WAY more than the male characters in this. They were way more affectionate with each other than sisters might be, and for a while I wondered if they were really sisters or if they were a couple.
Speaking of images of gay culture, this film had a few different characters who were very stereotypically gay males. This being a film about theater, one might not be too surprised, in 2017, to see such representations, but in 1928? Even though the representations (especially of the costume designer) were tremendously stereotypical, it was kind of amazing to see it at all.

The whole story of Queenie and Hank both loving Eddie, but Hank giving up her love to ensure Queenie wouldn’t be with Jock…it’s as dumb and convoluted as that half-baked summary I just typed. Really rough. There were tons of film and story conventions in this that were used for literally generations after this film. So that was interesting, on one level.

I can see why this movie was a hit, and I can see why it won awards. It’s a pretty fascinating look at the bridge between what were essentially silent art pictures of the 1920s, and the over the top talkie musical stage productions that came after. This film is kind of like that missing link.

Rating 1/10 … and I’m only being that generous for Anita Page and Bessie Love.

~~~

Jil says:

I don’t have words to describe the experience of watching The Broadway Melody. They tried, they tried hard. They tried too hard. Found myself hoping they’d give up. But, no. Was it as painful for them as it was for me? Or were they elated with what they wrought?

Unrateable

Wings – 1927

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The movie was Wings. Dinner was vegan chili and cornbread.

Jil:

Composition of many ground shots blew me away – reminiscent of Millet and Barbizon School.  Air flight screens of planes in flames ballet like – oddly serene. Can’t imagine what this must have been like for audiences of the times. Too many bubbles, not enough Gary Cooper – well it was very early but indicates why he became such an icon.  This deserves to have been the first Oscar winning movie.  Highly recommend.  I’d give it a 9 or 10 if only for the historic place it holds in American film, but really for so much else.  This is a must see.

~~~

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Bethany:

Wings (1927) – the FIRST winner of the Best Picture Academy Award

Things I liked:

Loosely based on a midsummer night’s dream

Clara Bow as Mary (meow!) also it is awesome that she helps dummy head Jack work on his car. According to Wikipedia it was rewritten to accommodate Clara Bow, as she was Paramount’s biggest star, but wasn’t happy about her part: “Wings is…a man’s picture and I’m just the whipped cream on top of the pie”.

Brief but wonderful appearance by Gary Cooper

Amazing aerial shots that are still fantastic even by today’s standards

At one of tables in a Paris Café there appears to be a lesbian couple

Fantastic Catholic imagery during David’s death scene

Because this is a silent film it’s fun to read the dialogue in your best ‘old timey newscaster’s voice’

Parts of this film seemed very homoerotic & according to Wikipedia “Wings was one of the first to show two men kissing: when several aviators are presented medals by a French general and are ceremonially pecked on their necks, and a fraternal moment between Rogers and Arlen during the deathbed finale. Marcel Danesi remarks that the Rogers-Arlen kiss was “really not a romantic kiss, reverberating more with the desperate love between two dear friends who are about to be separated by death”, but speculates that the “lingering” aspect of the kiss may have “unconsciously started the process of opening up America’s rigid moral attitudes at the time.”

Things I did NOT like:

At 2h 24min this is a long film.  Fortunately, the copy we watched included a brief intermission & it was very much needed.

Jack gets drunk in Paris & begins to see bubbles everywhere.  Whereas this was some impressive special effects for the time I kept wishing this scene would be over.  Plus what the hell was in that Champagne?

It was hard to believe that both of these men (David & Jack) preferred Sylvia over Mary.

Because once again: Clara Freaking Bow

The character of Jack is just really annoying.  He seems like such an idiot. I guess if I think of him as a teenager is makes more sense, but the actor playing him was about 23 at the time.

Rating: 5 out of 10.  It wasn’t great.  It wasn’t terrible.  I’m glad I watched it, but I probably will not watch it again

~~~

Darcy:
Charles “Buddy” Rogers

 

Well I’m not braggin’ babe so don’t put me down

But I’ve got the fastest set of wheels in town

When something comes up to me he don’t even try

Cause if I had a set of wings man I know she could fly

She’s my little deuce coupe

You don’t know what I got

 

Clara Bow

 

War, huh, good god

What is it good for

Absolutely nothing, listen to me

Oh, war, I despise

‘Cause it means destruction of innocent lives

War means tears to thousands of mothers eyes

When their sons go to fight

And lose their lives

 

Gary Cooper

 

Suddenly I’m not half the man I used to be.

There’s a shadow hanging over me.

Oh, yesterday came suddenly.

Why she had to go, I don’t know, she wouldn’t say.

I said something wrong, now I long for yesterday.

 

Richard Arlen

 

Because I want it all

It started out with a kiss

How did it end up like this

It was only a kiss, it was only a kiss

Now I’m falling asleep

The world is on my side

 

The Flying Circus

 

I have no reason to run

So will someone come and carry me home tonight

The angels never arrived

But I can hear the choir

So will someone come and carry me home

Tonight, we are young

So let’s set the world on fire

We can burn brighter than the sun

 

Arlette Marchal

 

Oh yeah, all right

Are you going to be in my dreams

Tonight?

 

2hr 24 minutes later

 

And in the end

The love you take

Is equal to the love you make.

or

It was a whopping good yarn and technically brilliant for any time but especially 1927.

8/10

~~~

Eric:

Wings – 1927.

Where better to start than at the beginning?

Generally, I like pre-film code stuff. I find the films interesting and engaging. I also like silent films a lot, but I tend to get fantastically sleepy while watching them. This was no different. I almost nodded off twice. That is no indictment of the film itself, just my personal inability to keep it together for long silent pictures.

Plusses: There are beautiful shots, amazing composition, and some overall amazing film-making that seems far ahead of its time. I love how the film starts off with Jack and Mary on the ground and progresses into the sky as the story progresses. There is some interesting thematic visual narrative there, for sure. And, I mean, Clara Bow is just amazing. Other plusses include a scene stolen by a young Gary Cooper, the shot of two women clearly on a date at the bar in Paris, and David’s death scene. As Bethany mentions, the Catholic imagery is amazing and over the top. The aerial shots are AMAZING. The dogfights are impressive by todays flying and filming standards! I kept saying out loud that I couldn’t believe this was made in the 1920s.

I wasn’t crazy about the length. YIKES. This thing is long. Clear the calendar if you take the plunge. The bubbles scene is too long. Jack is a jagoff. The story itself is not my cup of tea. I feel like Jack is given a pass for being a prat, and I’m supposed to be super sad about David, and I really wasn’t. That said, it’s a great piece of film making.

Overall, this film was great. I’m glad I watched it. I most likely won’t watch it again, but if you’re into classic cinema, you probably should.

Rating: 7/10

 

Beginnings

Like any good adventure, we felt it was only fitting to include our origin story.

A while back, after hanging out one evening, the four of us got to talking about how we should watch the Oscar-Winning Best Picture films from the earliest winners on.  Quite a bit of time passed and we were no closer to doing it.

Then, starting in the fall of 2016 and winter of 2017, the four of us started getting together pretty regularly on Sunday afternoons and evenings for a family dinner (mostly to assuage Eric’s freaking about about finishing up school. A nice Sunday dinner with the family was always welcome!). Occasionally these Sundays would also include a movie. This re-started the discussion about watching the Oscar-winners. Then we decided that if we had this blog, we’d have a nice structure to watch and review the films! We printed a list of all the winning films and talked about what we had seen and hadn’t. 4ThumbsUp4ThumbsDown was born.

And that brings us to this point. 4ThumsUp4ThumbsDown is a family film review blog. We hope you find some of this interesting, entertaining, or at least a bit fun. Remember, we’re out here watching stuff like The Broadway Melody so you don’t have to!

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