"The Outlaw" (Warner, 1943)
"Romeo And Juliet" (Warner, 1935)
"Phffft" (Warner, 1954)
A slow-moving, dry-humored comedy about a divorced couple who get back together after they realize how compatible they actually are with each other. It's one of the first feature roles for a young Jack Lemmon (who already had his sad-sack schtick pretty well polished...) and the not-quite-so-ditzy, not-quite-so-dumb blonde bombshell, Judy Holliday, in one of her lesser roles. It's not a great film, but it is fun to see the two of them, also interesting to see how consistently she upstages Lemmon, right from the start.
"Christmas In Connecticutt" (Warner, 1945)
An odd little screwball comedy featuring Barbara Stanwyck as a Martha Stewart-ish women's lifestyle columnist who actually isn't married, can't cook, can't sew and knows nothing about babies, despite being idolized by millions as the ultimate American housewife. Naturally, along comes a man that she needs to fool into thinking that she can do all these womanly things and, with a little bit of luck, she might even land the big lug. This isn't actually a very cohesive or inspired film -- there's a lot of running around and exclamations about what a pickle they're in, but the overall premise is kind of far-fetched, and the script isn't clever enough to make up for it. Also, the timing is way off in most scenes, and the story kind of barely clatters to the finish line in the last leg of the film. It's similar in a lot of ways to the Rock Hudson comedy, "Man's Favorite Sport," which shares a similar premise and similar problems. Still... it's got Stanwyck in it, and that's always a treat. This one's okay, but it's pretty clumsy.
"Shrek 2" (Dreamworks, 2004)
People went ga-ga over this animated sequel, and I agree, it was nice, good, clean fun. It's really all about Puss In Boots, though. Yeah, baby.
"Hangman's Knot" (Columbia, 1952)
A sub-par western starring Randolph Scott as the leader of a ragtag band of Confederate soldiers who find themselves on the wrong end of the law once the Civil War has ended. The script, direction and pacing are sluggish, and other than Scott, the acting is pretty unremarkable. Lee Marvin chews a little scenery in one of his earliest credited roles; Donna Reed is a total snooze. I really like Randolph Scott, but this movie wasn't really worth watching.
06/04/05Sexual Behavior in the Human Male '48
"Kinsey" (Fox Searchlight, 2005)
Hmmmm. Well, the acting is great. Laura Linney, Liam Neeson and Peter Sarsgaard are all superb in their roles, at least as far as the script permits them to be. But the script is problematic. I think writer-director Bill Condon went out of his way to mollify the religious-conservative anti-Kinsey forces both by showing flaws in Kinsey's character (which are interesting to know about) and by failing to really give a good, proper context for Kinsey's work and his impact on American society. At the film's start, we get a sense of how literally in the dark young people were about sexuality at the start of the 20th Century, with little idea of how to have sex, and tremendous free-floating fear about its consequences. While venereal disease was common then (as it is now), other maladies, such as onanistic blindness were pure fiction, scare stories to keep kids from getting "in trouble." Kinsey's research unravelled many negative myths about sexuality, while also paving the way for the so-called Sexual Revolution of the '60s and '70s, a tectonic shift in societal mores that had many consequences, both positive and negative. Where this movie fails, though, is in placing Kinsey's work inside the continuum of social change -- the impact he had is alluded to, but not really fleshed out. Midway through the film, for example, you realize that although Kinsey's character is now globally famous, you have no idea what decades various scenes are taking place in... Kinsey died in 1956, but you'd never know it from watching this film. No signposts are given, no reference made to any events outside of Kinsey's personal and professional circles, no sense of what is happening in the world around them, and this microcosmic approach undercuts the viewer's ability to grasp what Kinsey's legacy was really about. Also, the portrait of Kinsey as an emotional cripple seems a little overblown; I don't know much about his personal life, but the way this played out in the film rang false and flat... It just didn't work as well dramatically as it might have, though again Neeson does a fabulous job making this version of Kinsey live onscreen. Obviously a man who would undertake such a gigantic statistical survey as his life's work was a person of immense personal power and drive, but we don't really see that man here... I think there is value in acknowledging the flaws of historical figures, but this film wallows in Kinsey's naivete, and glosses over his importance in a strange, subtle way. Still, it's certainly worth seeing, even if it doesn't really explain its subject that well.
"Desperadoes" (Columbia, 1943)
Glenn Ford and Randolph Scott co-star in this hokey (but not too hokey) western about two old-school gunslingin' badmen who meet up after several years -- one wearing a badge and the other who'd been hired to pull a bank heist in a booming border town. This is one of Scott's better movies -- he's lanky and charming and full of natural ease. This is one of Ford's earliest lead roles, and he's great as the happy-go-lucky anti-hero, Cheyenne Rogers. Edgar Buchannan rounds out the cast, playing his usual fumpfering old codger role... The script is a little clunky, but the film still feels much more modern than it actually is... That's due to the beautiful Cinemascope photography. Apparently this was Columbia's first Cinemascope film... and it looks great! If you like good, old-fashioned, uncomplicated oaters, this one's swell.
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