Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Fortune Cookie

Yet another great Billy Wilder movie that I was watching for the second time during the Tuesdays with Bart series.

This one is about a TV cameraman played by Jack Lemmon who gets run over by a Browns running back, Boom Boom Jackson, during a game. Lemmon is willing to let bygones be bygones but his shyster brother-in-law played by Walter Matthau knows an opportunity when he sees one. Get as much insurance money as possible!

Jackson feels guilty and befriends Lemmon so he can help him mend from his "injuries." Lemmon feels guilty. Matthau cracks one classic line after another. Cliff Osmond as the insurance detective is also a highlight.

Two of my favorite Matthau lines from the movie.
To his kids - "Why don't you kids go play on the freeway?"

To a woman collecting for unwed mothers - "Unwed mothers? I'm for that!"

This might not be as good as Kiss Me, Stupid but it's still pretty damn good.

Directed by Billy Wilder

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Kiss Me, Stupid

I liked this movie a lot the first time I saw it a few years ago. I liked it even more this time. What a nutty movie. No wonder there were so many calls for it to be censored back in the day. If the sight of 4 longhairs from England could set the U.S. into a tizzy, this tale of debauchery, swapping partners, and prostitution was sure to cause some problems.

Ray Walston was a bit over-the-top but worked overall. Dean Martin was hilarious. And Kim Novak as Polly the Pistol was the true highlight. The scenes with her and Martin are truly great.

Wilder wraps it beautifully with a pitch-perfect ending.

Directed by Billy Wilder

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Apartment

I've seen this movie three times and would gladly watch it again right now. It always puts a smile on my face. Jack Lemmon is great, Fred MacMurray cracks me up, and Shirley MacLaine is super foxy.

If you haven't seen this, see it now. You won't be disappointed. Lemmon plays a sap who lets higher ups at his office use his apartment for their trysts. But when his boss (MacMurray) takes it too far with Lemmon's crush - the elevator girl (MacLaine), things get dicey.

I love the interplay between Lemmon and MacLaine. I love the widescreen black and white cinematography. I love New York of 1959. I love the casual sexism of the time as it was as opposed to recreating it from today's perspective a la Mad Men. Yet even from the perspective of the time, Wilder doesn't take the side of the users in the office. He takes the side of the sensitive underdog and the woman. Well played.

Directed by Billy Wilder

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Witness for the Prosecution

Is there anything Billy Wilder couldn't do? War films, film noir, cross dressing comedies, sex comedies, dark comedies, devastating dramas ... and, of course, a courtroom drama.

This was the first film in my recent Billy Wilder fest that I hadn't previously seen. And it was a damn good one.

Charles Laughton was incredible. He was crafty, serious when he needed to be, and overall hilarious. Boozing in court is always funny.

Tyrone Power was good enough. An interesting tidbit about him is that he died while working on his next movie after suffering a heart attack during a fight scene.

And Dietrich. Dietrich! Holy moly. Truly amazing. Her acting blows me away. And I can't believe she was 56-years-old when this movie came out. She looked great.

The movie kept throwing out red herring after red herring. It also completely surprised me at times. Clue after clue built up the intrigue. And then the last 15 minutes were one twist and turn and surprise after another. Brilliant. A super fun movie.

Directed by Billy Wilder

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Seven Year Itch

I saw this years ago at Film Forum and remembered being less than impressed.

On this viewing, I was downright hostile about it. Tom Ewell sucks. He was good enough in The Great American Pastime but terrible in this. Maybe it wasn't his fault though. It's hard to adapt a play and Wilder wasn't terribly successful with it. I hated Ewell's constant narration. He just wasn't funny.

Marilyn Monroe, on the other hand, was incredible. She's the only reason to watch this movie. As dated as this movie feels, she sure doesn't. Completely timeless. Jim, Bart, and I all thought the whole dress rising because of the air from the subway grate was a bit more, um, revealing than it actually was though. Disappointing.

In retrospect, this movie makes me realize that perhaps I was wrong about A Guide for the Married Man. 10 years later, similar theme but much better. No Marilyn though.

Directed by Billy Wilder

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Rome, Open City

The story of how this movie was made is just as engrossing as the movie itself. Rossellini wrote it (with Fellini!) during the Nazi occupation of Rome. He started filming it before the occupation was even over in 1944 using scavenged film stock. Several of the filmmakers were active in the resistance.

This film set the pace for the post-war Italian neorealist films and it came out before the war in Europe was even over! The film's influence can not be overstated.

But it is also entertaining as hell. The film tells the story of a number of Romans active in the resistance. It often feels like a documentary but it isn't. It is a landmark of cinema is what it is. I'm glad that I have finally seen it.

Directed by Roberto Rossellini

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


This film reminded me a bit of the interlocking story lines and the down on their luck underclass characters of the films Head-On and The Edge of Heaven.

The film is about a small time criminal, Alex, in Vienna recently out of jail who works for the owner of a brothel. He falls in love with a Ukrainian prostitute and convinces her that robbing a bank will be a good idea. He says that people only get caught if they don't have plan and ... he has a plan.

Unfortunately, he didn't plan on a cop telling his girlfriend that she needed to move the getaway car as he made his way back to the car from the bank robbery. At this point, the shit hits the fans and Alex has a lot to deal with. As does the cop.

Coincidences ensue, the plot interweaves, and the plot comes together quite nicely by the end. The film is engrossing from beginning to end and is well worth seeing. Highly recommended.

Directed by Götz Spielmann
2008, U.S. Release: 2009

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

All the President's Men

I hadn't seen this movie since high school journalism class. I had forgotten most of it except for the essentials - dark parking lots, Hal Holbrook in the shadows, and awesome awesome awesome scenes in the newsroom. I also think that I had conflated parts of the film in my head with scenes from Dick - a movie that I now need to go back and watch again.

This movie is a deserved classic. It is absolutely stupendous the entire way through. I agree with SHR who stated that she wanted another two hours of the movie once it ended. I could have watched this for much longer.

I love the scenes of the editors discussing the story. I love how the only thing that matters to the editors is the story itself and the political consequences didn't matter. Those scenes would work well in a split screen with the completely depressing mirror image ones from the last season of The Wire where the story is the furthest thing from what mattered to the higher-ups.

I loved Redford and Hoffman of course. But Jason Robards killed it. As did Jack Warden. I've loved that guy ever since Crazy Like a Fox. I loved the scenes of real footage as the characters watch it (or pointedly don't watch it in the super effective final scene) on TV. I loved all the scenes of phone calls and visits to sources. Nothing recorded - just all handwritten notes.

I almost think this movie might be better today than back then. It is incredibly entertaining and a great document of how the early part of the investigation went down. And even more importantly it documents how incredible a place a newsroom used to be - with clacking typewriters, a sense of what they did mattered, and of course Dustin Hoffman's hair.

Directed by Alan J. Pakula

Friday, April 02, 2010


While I liked this a lot more than Margot at the Wedding, I can't say I wholeheartedly liked this movie. There were a lot of fun moments and good dialogue. I agree with Jim that the direction was quite good as well. But I just couldn't get into it.

I know Ben Stiller's character was supposed to be obnoxious and sad sack but I was so put off by him that I couldn't deal with watching him for the entire movie. Maybe I just couldn't stand looking at his face and his dumb hair. Or maybe I've just had enough of watching movies about loser white dudes. But I just wanted to punch him in the face the entire time. And I didn't buy that any woman would find him desirable. The whole thing falls apart for me because of that.

Not to mention - the dumb party scene where the 20-year-olds insist on listening to Korn. Korn? They ridicule Greenberg for playing Duran Duran because it's so old. And then later they put on Galaxie 500? Really? Come on. But I did like a lot of the dialogue in the scene. In fact, that might have been one of my favorite scenes dialogue and tone wise.

But I will say that I can't get Greta Gerwig out of my head since seeing this movie. I'm completely enthralled with her now and even though I thought I was done with mumblecore, I might just have to see every single frame of celluloid that she has ever graced. Balgavy and I already plan on seeing Hannah Takes the Stairs together. Who else is in?

Directed by Noah Baumbauch