An American in Paris

The move was An American in Paris. Dinner was good old-fashioned home cooking…Chinese take-out from Lin’s Garden…a family tradition!

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Bethany Says:

This movie was too long. Specifically, the weird dream sequence of the concert pianist could be cut. And in a contemporary remake, most likely would be. More dance numbers with just Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron would have been better, too. The whole “cast of thousands” dance numbers weren’t as impressive as the two of them.

This was much better than My Fair Lady. There was still a weird bit of sexism going on. The age difference between Gene Kelly’s character in what we can assume is his mid to late 30s (he was 39 when this movie was made) and the Leslie Caron’s character being 19 (she was 19 or 20 at the time) is pretty crazy.

Likewise, the way the “other woman” was treated in this movie was terrible. The set up was that she was “SO OLD” when she looked, what, about Gene Kelly’s age? And her story is much more interesting than the film allowed for. More of her, please!

I give this a 6.5/10

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Eric Says:

I realized something during my viewing of this film. I really don’t like Gershwin music. This movie is kind of an homage to the whole canon of Gershwin, so that’s an element here. Also, as I’ve written about on this blog previously, I really don’t care for musicals, so…yeah.

All that said…this really isn’t that bad! The dancing is really the piece of this film that is stunning. I’m not even a dance fanatic, but you can’t deny Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron. The over the top 17 minute dance number at the end is what people want to talk about, but I think the opening scene of Gene Kelly waking up and moving through his tiny apartment is even more impressive. His movements were athletic and surprising. Of course, Gene Kelly being a Pittsburgh native is also a cool point of regional pride.

The plot of this is really thin, and kind of weird, but basically it’s a boy-falls-for-girl kind of thing. It’s complicated slightly, but that’s about it.

As for problematic gender role stuff? Oh yeah, we have plenty here. 1951 had a heavy dose of straight up patriarchy and crazy comments about “women acting like men” etc. Nothing too surprising, given the psychopathic way women are treated in general, and have been treated in most of the films that have won Oscars. In addition, Jil had prepped me for this aspect of the film so I was prepared.

I went into this not expecting much, and I was pleasantly surprised. 5/10

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My Fair Lady

The movie was My Fair Lady, winner of the 1965 Best Picture Oscar. The dinner was pasta with vegan meatballs, and fresh CSA salad from Harvest Valley.

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Eric says:

The best part of this movie was dinner.

The insane, psychopathic levels of sexism and classism in this production made it impossible for me to enjoy this. I generally have a hard time with musicals, and when they have this much horrid content, it’s that much more hard work. I swear some of Henry’s soliloquies and songs could double for contemporary men’s rights activist screeds.

For a film predicated on a language expert, Audrey Hepburn’s Eliza was a linguistic horror show. I know what cockney is supposed to sound like, and this wasn’t it. For instance, the contraction “G’won” for “go on” is certainly well known to anyone who has read literature or seen films that depict the English working class. Eliza screaming ‘GWAAH’ isn’t that. Her tendency to just scream for the first ¾ of the film didn’t help me at all, but screaming things is fine, if they ARE indeed things. This was rough.

I have two positive take-aways from viewing this thing.
ONE: I think it won because, even though it’s a musical, it was an AMAZINGLY visual film, and it succeeds on that level. Indeed, it was the most expensive film produced in the US up till 1965 when it was made. You can tell. The sets, the costumes, the look of the thing is exceptional.
TWO: I can see why so many of our LGBT brothers and sisters reference, talk about, and love this movie…because it’s all about passing in a society that essentially wants you dead. That became fairly obvious to me and really made sense.

That said, clocking in at 2 HOURS and 52 MINUTES…yeah, that’s essentially 3 HOURS LONG, this this was just INSANELY long for me. It was a slog. And the ending was, I guess supposed to be good and sweet because we see some transformation in Henry Higgins, but do we really? Ugh. I just hated this so much.

I give this 1/10. If the arc of the universe does indeed bend toward justice, I’ll never have to watch it again.

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Bethany says:

Yeah…My Fair Lady.

This film had brilliant visuals. It succeeds as a film because the point of the genre is visuals. The costumes, sets, and choreography are all A+.

The story is garbage.

The only way I can live with this story is if Henry Higgins is gay, and Eliza is totally asexual.

I also don’t understand why Eliza had to be financially responsible for Fred. At the track he was with his wealthy family and he was dressed well, but he’s apparently poor?

This movie was LONG. This movie is about 2 weeks too long. I remember it being much shorter, with about 6 fewer musical numbers. In fact, everything after when they think Eliza is a Hungarian I had forgotten about.

My favorite character was Eliza’s father, because he was clearly a great stage actor, and played the part so well. He looked and sounded excellent.

5/10

~~~

Darcy says:

My Fair Lady 1964

According to Monty Python G B Shaw, Oscar Wilde and James Whistler are exchanging bon mots in the presence of the Prince of Wales and each has to explain his derogatory comments in a way that will please the prince. It ends with Shaw giving the other two the raspberries. Oh what ludicrous fun you could have in 1895. Almost as much fun as in 1913 when Pygmalion premiered. It just goes to show the humor that can be mined in sexist misogynistic drivel. It’s a little hard to get my head back to ’64 before everbody got liberated and Prof. Higgins could confess his love for Col. Pickering and then they could go off to get married in the morning.

In a way watching this film was like traveling in the Tardis with Dr. Who – David Tennant being my favorite version but I have great hopes for Jodie Whittaker if I could only find a more recent episode. While I am all about Audrey Hepburn, she is just one set of wings short of a fairy queen, it does not seem to me likely that you could smudge her face and send her to Dick Van Dyke’s cockney coach and expect people to believe she was a 16 year old street urchin selling, “vilets, get yer loverly vilets ‘ere.’ Poor old Rex comes off like a lecherous old man living in denial. The ambiguous ending, “Fetch me my slippers,” doesn’t really stand up to “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” But times were more innocent in 1964. We didn’t know so much about the horrible things going on around us.

In my defense I was Bart Simpson’s age when I first saw this movie. It is certainly lush. All those pretty masses of posies and the costumes are to die for. The tableaus are an apt reference to the common practice of Edwardians for dressing up and posing as famous scenes. Yet now, it’s a bit like visiting my home town. The place is a lot smaller and there’s a certain shabbiness that went unnoticed by my younger eyes. At the time of Shaw I’m sure Liza Doolittle was something of a firebrand heroine to her fair sex.

To pick this up again in 1960’s America takes some doing. At the races Miss Doolittle’s, “Come on, Dover! Move your bloomin’ arse!” Was only startling to the crowd at Ascot. In 1913 when she said, “Walk! Not bloody likely. I am going in a taxi,” audiences gasped.

So, why best picture? It shared nominations with Becket, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, Mary Poppins, and Zorba the Greek. Maybe the academy should wait 10 years and revisit their decisions.

It Happened One Night

The movie was It Happened One Night. The meal was vegan chili and tortilla chips.

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Bethany says:

I liked it, even though there are creepy crazy sexist parts.

The film was certainly well acted.

This movie is almost like the definition of a farce.

7/10

~~~

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Eric says:

It Happened One Night

1934

The Best Picture winner from 1934 was Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night, starring Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable. I hadn’t seen this film, and I really liked it…well, parts of it anyway.

One thing that struck me was the lighting. It was noticeably beautiful. The composition of shots was likewise fantastic. This film was made in such a way that the story is accompanied by the visual components in purposeful and meaningful ways. I keep coming back to the lighting and the shots of actor’s eyes. Claudette Colbert is funny, engaging, and dreamy. It’s wonderful.

I was lucky enough to get a Criterion Collection copy of the film from the library and in some of the information in the liner notes I was reminded that the film codes came into existence in 1934/1935. This film is a pretty interesting case because it straddles that time frame and contains material that, just a few years later, would never be permitted under the new codes. The very basis of the story line, that a woman disobeyed her father and married a man she wanted to, and then that same woman traveled and lodged with a man who wasn’t her husband, is pretty amazing for 1934.

Speaking of…I have to say, this film in particular, and this whole project in general, has led me to get an even better, more solidified picture of how abysmally women have been treated through the 20th Century. And this is in a western cultural context, too. For all of the forward thinking of a film like It Happened One Night, there is a line that stuck with me long after viewing the picture. Before the Capra-esque resolution of love the male lead says to the female lead’s father “She’d be fine if she had somebody there to bust her in the mouth once a day whether she needed it of not.” He father is delighted at this. YIKES. Nope. And the GOOD GUY says that.

There is, in spite of the above-mentioned insanity, Capra-esque resolution, and it’s sweet and funny and the people you want to do well actually do well. It can be argued that, from a Capra Universe perspective, the rich girl who does well does so because we see her giving, everything…including their last $10 to a kid with a sick Mom on their road trip. That kind of social commentary is present here.

There is a scene where the male lead is driving and has to wait for the train. As the train passes by, he sees so many itinerant workers, hobos, riding the rails. He gives them a smile and a wave.  It’s little things like that through this film that make it so interesting to me. For all the good about this film, I can’t shake the intensity of how rough it has been for women forever. These early Hollywood films are amazing, and they make me think about tons of gender issues. The realization that the woman, in this film particularly, is being incredibly radical is amazing to me, and it’s making my head spin.

7/10 for a great piece of film making, but stark crazy sexism. At least part of the film was attempting to question some of that!

You Can’t Take It With You

The meal was an All-American affair, burgers (both vegan and non) from the grill and corn on the cob from Harvest Valley.

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I snapped a photo of the screen when we paused the film. Jimmy Stewart and Jean Arthur as Tony Kirby and Alice Sycamore

You Can’t Take It With You (1938)

Eric Says:

WOW. I kind of can’t believe this movie is from 1938. I also can’t believe that more people don’t talk about it. There are frank discussions of things like not letting fear rule your life, peace over war, and even green technologies such as solar energy. This is from 1938!

One of my very favorite moments is the speech that Jean Arthur as Alice gives about the things their family believe. Within this she talk about not being afraid. She says:

“You ought to hear Grandpa on that subject. He says most people nowadays are run by fear. Fear of what they eat, fear of what they drink, fear of their jobs, their future, fear of their health. They’re scared to save money and scared to spend it. You know what his pet aversion is? The people who commercialize on fear, you know they scare you to death so they can sell you something you don’t need. So, he kinda taught all of not to be afraid of anything, but do what we want to do. Well, its kinda fun, anyway.”

That quote alone makes me love this movie. Beyond that, there is a strange quality to this film, so much so that it surprises me that it won an Oscar. It’s a farce, but a social and political farce. It’s paced kind of quickly and has a sort of an “all things happening at once” vibe, which of course is purposeful. Grandpa’s house is SUPPOSED to be a chaotic kind of glorious mess. The idea that everyone should be having fun is at the core of what Grandpa wants for his family, but it’s fun with a sense of purpose. It’s fun that somehow connects one to their best self, their community, and society writ large.

Grandpa has two African Americans working for him in the house, Rheba and Donald. and they are a married couple. They are Rheba, played by Lilian Yarbo, and Donald, Played by Eddie “Rochester” Anderson. Their representation is pretty standard for 1938. They are servants. One thing I will say is that Donald works with Alice’s dad and DePinna making fireworks in the basement. Additionally, when Ed comes home in an early scene he tosses Donald a book that he’s reading and Donald starts leafing through it. Very minor things yes, but slightly out of step from the standard racist roles for African Americans in early Hollywood.

This movie is SO Frank Capra. If you’re at all familiar with It’s a Wonderful Life, or Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (where both Jimmy Stewart and Jean Arthur star again), you’ll see some familiar tropes. Indeed, the courtroom scene in You can’t Take It With You and the final scene in the Senate in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington are shockingly close, and both excellent. This is a story about following your heart, but also your community. There is a joy in the collective in the works of Capra, and this film revels in that.

And there is a kitten…who is a great actor.

I can’t believe this won an Oscar. It’s SURPRISINGLY good for the time. It’s much weirder, stranger and more entertaining than I expected. I give this a 9/10. It’s a gem, and it’s amazing to me that more people don’t know it.

~~~

Jil says:

You Can’t Take It With You. Pared down it is the not so original tale of wealthy, powerful, heartless business leader, mover & shaker who sets out to once again devour the common, honest folks who are just trying to get by in order to add to his empire. Through a series of unlikely events and odd encounters he discovers his own humanity. Add in boy meets girl from different class and values, they fall in love, have a tiff and get back together. Tale one – think Scrooge. There is even a remarkably Scrooge/Marley encounter, although Marley isn’t dead, yet. Tale 2, misfitted boy & girl – way too many examples.

SO how did this film win an academy award & end up as the highest grossing film of 1939? It’s all about the talent: Script by Moss Hart & George S. Kaufmann, originally a stage play which won a Pulitzer. Frank Capra directed. Lionel Barrymore, Jimmy Stewart, Jean Arthur… It’s an inconceivable story, no family is that tolerant or wacky. Some reviewers tagged it a screwball comedy. But somehow it works. There is a message; humanity, tolerance, democracy and patriotism, but patriotism in opposition to the corruption of government and business. I’m trying to explain why this a film worth seeing and I just can’t. But it is. Stewart just beginning to really find his way, Barrymore so established, so at ease…. Then there’s Mr Poppins who “makes things” and the kitten paper weight. Caution: Ann Miller keeps it up throughout the entire film.

I’d give it an 8.

~~~

Darcy says:

According to my father, 1938 was the year the depression finally seemed to lighten up. People were getting back to work, unfortunately due to preparations for war in Europe. It would be a great pleasure to see this movie as those original audiences saw it. Unaware of what was to come the nation only felt relief. Capra provided them with a vehicle of celebration. The movie is exuberant and joyful with a host of actors in their prime. A youthful Jimmy Stewart shines as a somewhat naive and inept son of wealth. Unlike many other actors when Mr. Stewart assumes a role I have trouble imagining any one else playing the part.

It’s possible to see the influences of the play and film in the work of Neil Simon and even odd TV families like the Munsters and Addams family. That Lionel Barrymore could appear amiable and fun loving credits his acting skill, after all no one would have expected Mr. Potter of Potter’s bank to give Jimmy Stewart anything but a hard time. There are some logical questions in the proceedings like the neighbors lack of reaction to Mr. Vanderhof’s capitulation that would destroy the neighborhood.  There’s an odd scene where the ruined business man, Mr. Ramsey, confronts the victorious Mr. Kirby which is mostly shot from the perspective of someone behind the character who is speaking. This does allow us to see Mr. Kirby’s and his cronies’ reactions to the speech. The unrelieved optimism seems forced but again this is a view from beyond the trail of tragic events of the twentieth century.

The following year Gone With the Wind won best picture but You Can’t Take It With You faced easier competition, by comparison it is a small film, almost a filmed stage play depending more on acting and comic timing than special effects. It was an unexpected pleasure and bit of a gem from an earlier time when the world seemed to be getting brighter.

~~~

Bethany says:

I liked it. It is a farce in almost the Shakespearean way. The solar power thing was amazing and surprising. I REALLY wanted them to take the sign off her dress in the restaurant scene. I loved that dress, without the cape. The perspective of the speech from Ramsey (the other businessman who dies) is surprising and very cool film making.

Also I think this is obviously a ‘rough draft’ for It’s A Wonderful Life.  You can see the seeds of an even more sophisticated film starting to grow.  All the same themes are present. You also can’t deny the resemblance to A Christmas Carol.

I’ll give it a 9 (only because It’s a Wonderful Life would be a 10).

 

 

 

 

Rocky

The meal was vegan lasagna and garlic bread with a small green salad. Oddly, that wasn’t planned (the whole Italian-American, Italian food, thing).

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Eric Says:

ROCKY 1976

I love the Rocky movies. I LOVE them. And I love the first one best of all. I think that people often write off this film because it’s a sports film, and it’s a sports film about boxing. It’s very easy hate boxing, especially if you are an art loving liberal, or an academic. I remember once, years ago in my former life as a college instructor…I was at a conference in Washington DC and after the day’s events we went to the bar. The TV above the bar was showing the fights. I got excited and got a seat at the bar and started watching. All of the people from the conference were confused. “You like that stuff?” These were the same people who were, merely hours before, pontificating on the working class, and looking at literature through that lens, and here they were freaked out because boxing was on the TV…and that I actually liked it.

At any rate, this film is AMAZING and it’s totally worth watching. (Full disclosure, this is probably in my top 5 films of all time. Take that for what it’s worth.) Rocky is basically an art house film masquerading as a sports movie. The imagery that exists in this film is WONDERFUL. The opening shot (during the fight between Spider Rico and Rocky) contains one of my favorite moments on film. The slow pan down from the mural of Christ’s face, past the banner that reads “Resurrection A.D.” to the boxing ring is utterly beautiful. Likewise, the shots of Philadelphia in the mid-1970s are wonderful. It’s so grey, bleak, and filthy. There is no glamour. From the waterfront where Rocky works as a collector for a loan shark (which Mick says isn’t a living, but rather “a WASTE of life”), to his apartment which is a broken down place that, in his own words “STINKS,” the visuals in this are stunningly wonderful.

I also love that it doesn’t have a so-called “Hollywood ending”…like the other films in the franchise tend to have. In this film, Rocky loses the fight. He loses. He gets beaten. Apollo Creed wins the boxing match. That fact alone is enough to make me love this movie. Sure, Rocky “goes the distance” and doesn’t get knocked out, but in the end, he loses the fight. It’s an amazing thing.

This film is an excellent for other reasons as well. There is a lot of heart break going on all over. The description of Adrian and Rocky’s relationship as “gaps” is wonderful. “She’s got gaps, I got gaps, together we fill gaps.” Heartbreaking and beautiful. Likewise, the night before the fight when Rocky goes to the arena and sees that the “poster is wrong” because it shows Rocky with red trucks, rather than white never fails to break my heart. “The poster’s wrong” … Mr. Jergens, the fight promoter replies “It doesn’t really matter, does it?” UGH. Heartbreak. EVERY TIME. I love it so much I can’t stand it.

So yes. Watch this film. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking and wonderful.

10/10

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The moment in the film where Bethany blushes

Darcy says:

As our story opens in the words of Marlon Brando, “Never confuse the size of your paycheck with the size of your talent.” We meet Terry, I mean Rocky, thugging for the mob, something we all imagine being good at because we are just soooo angry all the time. “If you want something from an audience, you give blood to their fantasies. It’s the ultimate hustle.” If Rocky gave Terry’s famous On the Waterfront speech who would he be talking to?

“It wasn’t him, Charley, it was you. Remember that night in the Garden you came down to my dressing room and you said, “Kid, this ain’t your night. We’re going for the price on Wilson.” You remember that? “This ain’t your night”! My night! I coulda taken Wilson apart! So what happens? He gets the title shot outdoors on the ballpark and what do I get? A one-way ticket to Palooka-ville! You was my brother, Charley, you shoulda looked out for me a little bit. You shoulda taken care of me just a little bit so I wouldn’t have to take them dives for the short-end money. … You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it. It was you, Charley.”

Until comparing the two films it hadn’t occurred to me that Rocky has no Charlie character. No one seems responsible for his downtrodden condition. The film looks at Rocky’s life without the sense that he is a victim of greater social forces. In an era when incompetence is a defense against charges amounting to treason the attitude of Rocky seems to have become the new America. And the one time fate steps in taking the form of a black man who is a boxing god you see the only hope a person has. Some supernatural force has to drop in because nobody down in Palukaville, I mean Philadelphia, can act to change the situation.

It makes good narrative sense to have Rocky challenged and see him rising to the challenge, but we have no idea what motivates the other people around him. So many seem to want their shot, their chance, as if waiting around for someone else to rescue us is natural to humans. “Nature,” said Katharine Hepburn to Humphrey Bogart in African Queen, “is what we are put on this earth to rise above.”

American movies have a habit of treating Americans as so much scenery for the hero to chew. They have taught us to wait among the townspeople for a Lone Ranger to sweep us into glory which we will then turn into crap needing rescued in the next movie. The idea that Terry is rescued by the townspeople acting together for their own best interest makes On the Waterfront somehow un-American for Hollywood. Rocky, on the other hand, is a virtually empty city.

Paulie is portrayed as someone weak wanting rescued but, how is he different from Rocky who only did something self-affirming after divine intervention? From 1954, “Edie: Isn’t everybody a part of everybody else? Terry: Boy, what a fruitcake you are!” Not every movie needs to be concerned with larger social issues but the success of Rocky in framing an American story has tapped into something we should be worried about.

It bothers me when people speak of institutions doing or saying something. When the White House speaks I want to be there and see it breathing and the front door moving to frame words. People speak. Individuals are responsible for every word that comes out of the mouth of Exxon. If we don’t own our actions we are pushed around by others. That delicate balance is missing from Rocky, but it was central to On the Waterfront, do we accept the change?

That said, I did enjoy some witty repartee from a character who really is smarter than he seems,

Adrian: Why do you wanna fight?

Rocky Balboa: ‘Cause I can’t sing or dance.

Adrian: I’ll be here waiting for you.

Rocky Balboa: How ’bout I stay here and you fight?

Rocky Balboa: I should’ve broke your thumb!

 

 

 

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

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