Saturday, May 26, 2012

Retrospective: 5 Preston Sturges Films

The Great McGinty (US/1940)   ***

A homeless man and a crook have a political career.
A fast-paced, satirical comedy that signaled the arrival of an important Hollywood career that was to come. On its own, it’s terrific.
wd – Preston Sturges
ph – William C. Mellor
m – Frederick Hollander
ad – Hans Dreier, A. Earl Hedrick
ed – Hugh Bennett

p – Paul Jones

Cast:     Brian Donlevy, Akim Tamiroff, Muriel Angelus, Louis Jean Heydt, Arthur Hoyt

Christmas in July (US/1940)   **

A young clerk and his girlfriend win first prize in a big competition.
A film noticeably influenced by Clair, it is one of Sturges’ duller stories, but is kept alive by inventive touches and a gallery of splendid character comedians.
wd – Preston Sturges
ph – Victor Milner
ad – Hans Dreier, A. Earl Hedrick
ed – Ellsworth Hoagland

p – Paul Jones

Cast:     Dick Powell, Ellen Drew, Raymond Walburn, Al Bridge, Alexander Carr, William Demarest,
             Ernest Truex

Sullivan’s Travels (US/1941)   ****

A Hollywood director tires of comedy and goes out to find real life.
Beautifully sustained melodrama that is half-tragedy/half-comedy and ranges from pratfalls to the chain-gang while never losing its marvelous poise.
wd – Preston Sturges
ph – John F. Seitz
ad – Hans Dreier, Earl Hedrick
m – Leo Shuken
ed – Stuart Gilmore

p – Paul Jones

Cast:     Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake, Robert Warwick, William Demarest, Franklin Pangborn, Porter 
             Hall, Byron Foulger, Eric Blore, Robert Grieg, Torben Meyer, Jimmy Conlin, Margaret Hayes

The Palm Beach Story (US/1942)   **

Feeling that, financially, their marriage was a mistake, the wife of an engineer flees to Florida to find herself a millionaire.
Although beloved by many, this absurd little romantic comedy only really comes alive when it focuses on its two stars. It does, however, contain some of its director’s most romantic touches, but the whole lacks a steady grasp.
wd – Preston Sturges
ph – Victor Milner
ad – Hans Dreier, Ernst Fegte
m – Victor Young
ed – Stuart Gilmore

p – Paul Jones

Cast:     Claudette Colbert, Joel McCrea, Rudy Vallee, Mary Astor, Sig Arno, Robert Dudley, Robert
             Warwick, Torben Meyer, Jimmy Conlin, William Demarest, Jack Norton, Robert Grieg

The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (US/1943)   ***

A girl in a small town becomes accidentally pregnant and chaos ensues.
Astonishing, fearless attack on the Hays Office by its maker; it is also one of the oddest of comedies. It seems to creepily invite its audience to get comfortable and then knock them out with a mockery of their values. It remains strange and exquisite to this day.
wd – Preston Sturges
ph – John F. Seitz
ad – Hans Dreier, Ernst Fegte
m – Leo Shuken, Charles Bradshaw
ed – Stuart Gilmore

p – Preston Sturges

Cast:     Betty Hutton, Eddie Bracken, William Demarest, Diana Lynn, Porter Hall, Akim Tamiroff, 
             Brian Donlevy, Alan Bridge

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Retropective: 7 Billy Wilder Films

Double Indemnity (US/1944)   ****

A wife seduces an insurance agent into murdering her husband.
The epitome of the film-noir of the 1940’s. Brilliantly written, directed and acted, its mix of sex, violence and a hero/villain would remain forever unsurpassed and endlessly imitated.

d – Billy Wilder
w – Billy Wilder, Raymond Chandler   (Based on the Novel by James M. Cain)
ph – John F. Seitz
ad – Hans Dreier, Hal Pereira
m – Miklos Rozsa
ed – Doane Harrison
cos – Edith Head

p – Joseph Sistrom

Cast:    Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson, Porter Hall, Tom Powers, Jean Heather, Byron Barr, Fortunio Bonanova

The Lost Weekend (US/1945)   ***

An alcoholic writer goes on a severe binge over the course of two days.
The first Hollywood production to treat this subject seriously, it was remarkably original on its first release. Today, it remains a dynamically filmed piece of work, particularly its depiction of lower Manhattan.

d – Billy Wilder
w – Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett   (Based on the Novel by Charles R. Jackson)
ph – John F. Seitz
ad – Hans Dreier, Earl Hedrick
m – Miklos Rozsa
ed – Doane Harrison
cos – Edith Head

p – Charles Brackett

Cast:    Ray Milland, Jane Wyman, Phillip Terry, Howard Da Silva, Doris Dowling, Frank Faylan, Mary Young, Anita Bolster, Lilian Fontaine

Sunset Boulevard (US/1950)   ****

A young screenwriter becomes involved with a faded, reclusive star of the silent era.
A haunting, devastating melodrama that is brilliant in every conceivable way, from acting to writing to photography to design. On another level, its depiction of Hollywood and the way it treats its children, is not only crushing but unbelievably precise; with each passing year it becomes more and more haunting.

d – Billy Wilder
w – Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett, D.M. Marshman Jr
ph – John F. Seitz
ad – Hans Dreier, John Meehan
m – Franz Waxman
ed – Arthur Schmidt, Doane Harrison
cos – Edith Head

p – Charles Brackett

Cast:    Gloria Swanson, William Holden, Erich von Stroheim, Nancy Olson, Fred Clark, Jack Webb, Lloyd Gough, Cecil B. DeMille, H.B. Warner, Anna Q. Nilsson, Buster Keaton, Hedda Hopper

Ace in the Hole (US/1951)   ***
(aka The Big Carnival)

In order to extend the commotion and boost newspaper sales, an egotistical journalist delays the rescue of a man trapped in a cave.
Harsh, at times downright nasty melodrama from the master cynic in which the seriousness and insight create a tremendously compelling piece.

d – Billy Wilder
w – Billy Wilder, Lesser Samuels, Walter Newman
ph – Charles Lang
ad – Earl Hedrick, Hal Pereira
m – Hugo Friedhofer
ed – Arthur Schmidt
cos – Edith Head

p – Billy Wilder

Cast:    Kirk Douglas, Jan Sterling, Porter Hall, Bob Arthur, Frank Cady, Richard Benedict, Ray Teal, Lewis Martin, John Berkes, Frances Dominiguez, Gene Evans

Witness for the Prosecution (US/1957)   ***

A recuperating QC defends a man charged of murder and finds himself in a maze of deception.
Altogether rather silly aggrandized courtroom drama based on Christie’s witty play that is made thoroughly entertaining due to overall sophistication and, of course, the magnetic lead performance.

d – Billy Wilder
w – Billy Wilder, Harry Kurnitz   (Based on the Play by Agatha Christie)
ph – Russell Harlan
ad – Alexandre Trauner
m – Matty Malneck
ed – Daniel Mandell
cos – Edith Head

p – Arthur Hornblow Jr

Cast:    Charles Laughton, Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich, Elsa Lanchester, John Williams, Henry Daniell, Ian Wolfe, Torin Thatcher, Una O’Connor, Norma Varden, Ruta Lee

Some Like it Hot (US/1959)   ***

Two musicians who witness the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre disguise themselves as members of an all-girl band.
Deft, landmark comedy that many consider to be the best of its kind. Despite thin patches, it certainly works exceedingly well with a perfect cast and a director with endless wit.

d – Billy Wilder
w – Billy Wilder, I.A.L. Diamond
ph – Charles Lang
ad – Ted Haworth
m – Adolph Deutsch
ed – Arthur Schmidt
cos – Orry-Kelly

p – Billy Wilder

Cast:    Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Joe E. Brown, George Raft, Pat O’Brien, Nehemiah Persoff, Joan Shawlee, Billy Gray, George E. Stone, Dave Barry

The Apartment (US/1960)   ****

A lonesome but ambitious clerk rents out his apartment to philandering executives until he discovers that one of them is with the girl he loves.
Beautifully realised romantic-comedy with a great deal of sting; it contains many of its director’s greatest touches.

d – Billy Wilder
w – Billy Wilder, I.A.L. Diamond
ph – Joseph LaShelle
ad – Alexandre Trauner
m – Adolph Deutsch
ed – Daniel Mandell

p – Billy Wilder

Cast:    Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray, Edie Adams, Ray Walston, Jack Kruschen, David Lewis, Hope Holiday, Joan Shawlee, Naomi Stevens, Johnny Seven, Joyce Jameson, Willard Waterman, David White

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Crisp Criticism - "Dark Shadows", "What to Expect When You’re Expecting", "The Dictator"

Dark Shadows (US)

An imprisoned vampire is set free and returns to his ancestral home, where his dysfunctional descendants are now living.
Inane, meandering fantasy based on a 60’s soap opera, which offers yet another travelogue of stylised indulgence from its director and star. It implies that Burton is a filmmaker who has lost his nerve.

d – Tim Burton
w – Seth Grahame-Smith, John August   (Based on the TV Series by Dan Curtis)
ph – Bruno Delbonnel
pd – Rick Heinrichs
m – Danny Elfman
ed – Chris Lebenzon
cos – Colleen Atwood

p – Richard D. Zanuck, Christi Dembrowski, Johnny Depp, David Kennedy, Graham King

Cast: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green, Jackie Earle Haley, Johnny Lee Miller, Chloe Grace Moretz, Helena Bonham Carter, Bella Heathcote, Gulliver McGrath

What to Expect When You’re Expecting (US)

Interconnected couples experience the ups and downs of having babies.
A thin piece of pastry spread over a thinner cracker. Instead of one effectual story, we get six or seven transparent ones.

d – Kirk Jones
w – Shauna Cross, Heather Hach   (Based on the Book by Heidi Murkoff)
ph – Xavier Perez Grobet
pd – Andrew Laws
m – Mark Mothersbaugh
ed – Michael Berenbaum
cos – Karen Patch

p – Mike Medavoy, Arnold Messer, David Thwaites

Cast: Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Banks, Chace Crawford, Brooklyn Decker, Ben Falcone, Anna Kendrick, Matthew Morrison, Dennis Quaid, Chris Rock, Rodrigo Santoro, Joe Manganiello, Rob Huebel, Thomas Lennon

The Dictator (US)

Under pressure from the international community to allow open elections and stop murdering his own citizens, an anti-western dictator plans a visit to the United Nations, but when he gets to New York, he is kidnapped, replaced with a body double, and left to be a just a homeless nutcase in Manhattan. 
Another attempt at incredulous satire from its star who, here, abandoning with his previous documentary-style approach, creates a fiction-feature sketch show more akin to parody than satire, with far too few laughs.

d – Larry Charles
w – Sacha Baron Cohen, Alec Berg, David Mandel, Jeff Schaffer
ph – Lawrence Sher
pd – Victor Kempster
m – Erran Baron Cohen
ed – Greg Hayden, Eric Kissack
cos – Jeffrey Kurland

p – Scott Rudin, Sacha Baron Cohen

Cast: Sacha Baron Cohen, Ben Kingsley, Jason Mantzoukas, Anna Faris, J. B. Smoove, John C. Reilly, B. J. Novak, Chris Elliott

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Films of 2012

For reviews click here.



The Cabin in the Woods
Cloud Atlas
The Deep Blue Sea
Holy Motors
Marvel's The Avengers
The Master
Moonrise Kingdom 
Oslo, August 31st 


Damsels in Distress
The Dark Knight Rises
Django Unchained
End of Watch
Girl Walk // All Day
The Grey
Hope Springs 
The Invisible War
The Kid with a Bike
Kill List
Life of Pi
Magic Mike 
Rust and Bone
The Secret World of Arrietty
The Sessions
Seven Psychopaths
Side by Side
Silver Linings Playbook
To Rome with Love
21 Jump Street
Wuthering Heights
Zero Dark Thirty


The Angels' Share
Anna Karenina
Being Flynn
The Comedy
Dark Horse
The Eye of the Storm
Farewell, My Queen
The Impossible
John Carter
Killing Them Softly
Mirror Mirror
Not Fade Away
The Pirates! Band of Misfits 
Premium Rush
Promised Land
The Queen of Versailles
Robot and Frank
Safety Not Guaranteed
The Sapphires 
Searching for Sugar Man
Take This Waltz


About Cherry 
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter 
Act of Valor 
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry 
Alex Cross 
The Amazing Spider-Man 
American Reunion 
The Apparition 
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel 
Big Miracle 
The Bourne Legacy 
The Campaign 
Casa de Mi Padre 
Celeste and Jesse Forever 
Dark Shadows 
The Devil Inside 
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days 
The Dictator 
Dredd 3D 
The Expendables 2 
The Five-Year Engagement 
For a Good Time Call... 
Friends with Kids 
Fun Size 
Good Deeds 
The Guilt Trip 
The Hunger Games 
Hyde Park on Hudson 
The Imposter 
The Intouchables 
Jack Reacher 
Jeff, Who Lives at Home 
Joyful Noise 
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island 
A Little Bit of Heaven 
Losing Control 
The Lucky One
Man on a Ledge 
Marina Abromovic: The Artist is Present 
Men in Black 3 
One For the Money 
The Paperboy 
Parental Guidance 
Peace, Love and Misunderstanding 
People Like Us 
The Perks of Being a Wallflower 
Piranha 3DD 
Playing For Keeps 
Project X 
The Raven 
The Raid: Redemption 
Red Dawn 
Red Lights 
Red Tails 
Rock of Ages 
Safe House 
Salmon Fishing in Yemen 
Seeking a Friend For the End of the World 
Silent House 
Snow White and the Huntsman 
Sound of My Voice 
Step Up: Revolution 
That’s My Boy 
Think Like a Man 
This is 40 
This Means War 
A Thousand Words 
The Three Stooges 
Trouble with the Curve 
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 
Total Recall 
Underworld: Awakening 
The Vow 
The Watch 
What to Expect When You're Expecting 
The Woman in Black