Lucky Me

As Doris Day just passed away at the age of 97, I figured watching some of her films would be a good memorial. My library displayed their DVDs with Day and I chose Lucky Day at random.

In Lucky Me, Day plays Candy Williams an aspiring singer and dancer who’s very superstitious and won’t walk by a black cat or step on a crack. Any superstition you’ve heard of in America, she won’t test. Williams is part of a struggling troupe of performers led by Phil Silvers, who’s perfect for his part. Candy gets duped by a well-meaning composer and romantic comedy ensues.

Though Lucky Me isn’t Day’s finest film and there are no great classic songs I recognized, the film entertains. It’s a cheerful story which showcases Day’s optimistic style. It’s sure to make you smile. The supporting cast includes Nancy Walker, who I remember from the sitcom Rhoda. Walker’s dancing skill was a nice surprise and Silver was a wonderful father figure in this tale of old showbiz.

Tea with the Dames

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Gather four award-winning, accomplished British actresses to gossip, reflect on their careers and to a lesser degree their private lives and you’ve got Tea with the Dames. Starring Joan Plowright, who I learned was Lawrence Olivier’s third wife, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench and Eileen Atkins, Tea with the Dames is shot in Plowright’s country home which provides an idyllic English setting for the actresses to look back on their careers and friendships. Plowright and Smith do touch on Olivier’s sharp criticism. He sure could make a cutting remark to anyone who wasn’t performing as he thought they should.

I learned how each actress got started, how dedicated they are to their profession and what they thought when they received their titles. I wasn’t that familiar with Atkin’s work and from the film, I still don’t after viewing this film. The film’s designed for people well acquainted with the actresses. If you’re not, I think you’d find it confusing.

There’s no real structure and the film meanders more than most interview programs. Still these women are captivating and I enjoyed seeing how confident and at home with themselves and with each other these women were.

Creed

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The most recent and perhaps last in the Rocky film series, Creed travels a well worn path. I’d heard a slight buzz about it when it came out, so I expected a little more. It’s a story about Apollo Creed’s son. He’s illegitimate which caused some identity issues. On the one hand, he’s distanced himself from his father by using his mother’s surname. Yet he quits a steady corporate job and pulls up stakes in L.A. and moves to Philadelphia to convince Rocky Balboa to train him.

As you’d expect Rocky initially refuses. He’s out of that world now. Eventually, Rocky agrees. Then, of course, there’s a big match and Creed, the newcomer gets a match with the World Champion in his weight class.

I saw the first Rocky and thought it was good, as I recall. Creed did a good job for this sort of film, but it’s really not my genre or my sport.

Inside Out

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If I hadn’t flown United, I wouldn’t have sought out Inside Outside a cute animated film about Riley, a happy middle school student, whose emotions go into a tailspin when she moves to San Francisco thus losing her friends, her big backyard and her upbeat attitude. What sets this film apart is that most of the action takes place inside Riley’s head, in an emotional control center. Amy Poehler is the emotion Joy and she’s the captain of this ship and feels compelled to only send happy thoughts to long term memory. Lewis Black plays a red hot Anger and other “shipmates” represent Disgust and Sadness. Joy doesn’t understand the value of sadness and is always trying to distract Sadness, who does have some wisdom to offer.

Joy and the other emotions fall out of their command center and must journey through Riley’s imagination, subconscious, etc. They go to a land of abstraction and become Picasso-ized. It’s all quite clever, but probably over the heads of most kids. Perhaps they’d go along for the ride anyway.

I was surprised that the film had Riley run away from home. She walks through the shady part of town where their new home is to the bus station. She gets a ticket and boards a bus. That was a bold move for a modern film to make.

La Grande Illusion

b3_d__0_GrandIllusionI knew that Phil Jackson would show Jean Renoir’s La Grande Illusion  (1937) to his players before every season, but I wasn’t sure why. (I’m still uncertain as to what he wanted his team to learn, though the film has plenty of insights.)

I didn’t know what to expect. The DVD package promised a war film, which I’m never in the mood for, but if 3:10 to Yuma was good, perhaps this would be too. Starring Jean Gabin (whom I saw in Touchez Pas au Grisbi) La Grande Illusion tells the story of French POWs in World War I. Of course, if the main characters are stuck in prison, the film’s objective must be to get them out, n’est pas? Bien sur.

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The three central characters are Gabin’s working class Maréchal, Pierre Fresnay’s blue blooded Capt. de Boeldieu and Marcel Dalio’s Lt. Rosenthal. When Maréchal is captured he’s put in a cell with de Boeldieu and Rosenthal, who shares the delicacies his family send him from France with all his comrades. Maréchal soon learns that the men have been digging a tunnel to get out. While other escapees get caught and shot, these men’s plan is thwarted as they are all moved to another prison camp just before they plan to use the tunnel.

de Boeldieu et von Rauffenstein

de Boeldieu et von Rauffenstein

The three are transferred and try to escape repeatedly till they’re sent to Capt. von Rauffenstein’s camp. Played by Eric von Stroheim, von Rauffenstein is a compelling character. Throughout the film, von Rauffenstein wears a full body cast and wears white gloves to hide his burned hands. He lives in a gothic chapel that he’s oddly decorated and made into an apartment. He prides himself on running a civilized prisoner of war camp for officers, whom he treats almost like guests.

Von Rauffenstein most connects with de Boeldieu as their family trees are most on par. While de Boedleu has come to see that the old social order is dying, von Rauffenstein’s blind to that. He also can’t fathom how de Boedieu can seen any value in the working class or nouveau riche, that’s his downfall.

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From critic Peter Cowie’s essay on the Criterion Collection website:

Made just three years before World War II, it gazes back to a different era, and to a war, in the words of the director, “based on fair play, a war without atom bombs or torture.” Hitler had not appeared. “Nor,” says Renoir, “had the Nazis, who almost succeeded in making people forget that the Germans are also human beings.”

The film is simple, but compelling with fascinating characters I won’t soon forget. It unfolds effortlessly and haunts me days after I’ve seen it. I can’t wait to watch it again, next time with the commentary.

No

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The Chilean film No chronicles the story behind the advertising campaign for the referendum to force Pinochet, the dictator, to hold elections. In 197x Chile held an election to determine whether to hold elections for the head of state. Should Pinochet keep his position or would he have to run to stay in office?

Each side was given 15 minutes of TV airtime a night for the 27 days leading up to election day. The Si side was pro-Pinochet and No was in favor of ousting him via and election. While the No backers expected a straightforward campaign showing all Pinochet’s atrocities, the ad exec thinks that’s too much of a downer, that they should go for exuberant like Coca Cola, etc. In addition to this conflict, Pinochet’s hoodlums follow and intimidate the people working on the No campaign.

It’s an earnest, compelling film that taught me about a chapter of Chilean history

Sepia Saturday

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Ah, romance.

This prompt made me wonder when was the first cinematic kiss. A Google search led me to this photo from an India film released in 1933:

Devika Rani in "Karma"

Devika Rani in “Karma”

Yet, certainly 1933 wasn’t the first film to show a kiss. (Google isn’t always the best.) A Yahoo search led me to discover that “John C Rice kissed May Irwin in 1896, and became the first couple to be recorded kissing in the film called The Kiss.

1896 First Onscreen Kiss

1896 First Onscreen Kiss

Thank You for Smoking

I learned in 1982, when I saw and read The World According to Garp, that, as a rule, if I saw the movie before I read the book, I liked them both but if I reversed the order, I was invariably disappointed by the movie.

So far the only exception that comes to mind isBrokeback Mountain but that was a short story. The key seems to be that whichever version has more detail should be experienced after that which has less detail.

The rule certainly held true with Thank You for Smoking. After reading the book, the movie was quite disappointing in its omissions. Rather than enjoying the movie for itself, I was left puzzling over the process of deciding what to include and what to omit.

That being said, in an effort to focus solely on the movie, let me point out that it was nominated for 15 awards, including two Golden Globes, and that it won six of those 15 (altho neither of the GG’s). For those who place stock in such awards, this is an indication that while the movie suffers in comparison to the novel, when considered on its own, it merits a viewing.

The plot outline from IMDB:

Tobacco industry lobbyist Nick Naylor has a seemingly impossible task: promoting cigarette smoking in a time when the health hazards of the activity have become too plain to ignore. Nick, however, revels in his job, using argument and twisted logic to place, as often as not, his clients in the positions of either altruistic do-gooders or victims. Nick’s son Joey needs to understand and respect his dad’s philosophy, and Nick works hard to respond to that need without compromising his lack of values. When a beautiful news reporter betrays Nick’s sexually-achieved trust, his world seems in danger of collapsing. But there’s always one more coffin nail in Nick’s pack. Written byJim Beaver {jumblejim@prodigy.net}

By Bridget