Thursday, May 27, 2010

Irma La Douce


I love when the Billy Wilder fest affords me the opportunity to fill in the gaps of ones that I haven't seen. And while this is far from one of my favorites, I did enjoy it quite a bit.

The film reunites Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine in Paris. She's a prostitute. He's a naive do gooder cop. Obviously, they fall in love. What ends up not being so obvious is what ends up happening next. He becomes her pimp but then becomes jealous so he cooks up some elaborate scheme of pretending to be an English aristocrat who tips her heavily so she won't have to hook no more. Of course, he has no money so he has to work all night to earn the money to pay her which then leads to tension between the two. And then even more crazy complications ensue. But they all somehow work.

Lemmon is great in the role as the aristocrat. Mike Myers stole 95% of the act and then made them much more over-the-top for his Austin Powers movies. Lemmon's hamminess reminded me a bit of one of the heirs Alec Guiness played in Kind Hearts and Coronets.

The two and a half hour run time is a bit long. Also, the movie is based on a musical. Even though the songs were taken out for the movie, it still has the feel of a musical - for better or worse I guess.

Still, while this isn't a Wilder classic, it is well worth seeing.

Directed by Billy Wilder
1963
DVD

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Beware, My Lovely

Ida Lupino hires a handyman. Robert Ryan is the drifter hired to help out. He's dangerous.

Dangerously awesome.

This movie is a bit silly but for 1952 might have been super freaky.

I really can't get enough Robert Ryan.

Directed by Harry Horner
1952
TCM

Monday, May 24, 2010

The T.A.M.I. Show

Recorded in October, 1964 in Electronovision! and ready within a month, this movie is incredible on many levels. It is a must see. The bands are great. The performances are stupendous. It works as a fascinating time capsule yet also feels completely timeless.

Yeah, Lesley Gore was awarded too many songs. Yes, Jan and Dean were a bit silly. And Yes, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas were a bit creampuff. But so what? They were still good.

And then there was the rest. I need to see more of The Barbarians. I've never seen a drummer with a hook for a hand. What the hell?

Just take a look at the lineup! And James Brown's performance is legendary for a reason. I still can't believe the Stones had to follow it but they acquitted themselves quite nicely. I need to watch this over and over again. Hell, maybe I'll just play it regularly and watch Double Trouble dance. They'll love it.

Oh yeah, T.A.M.I stands for Teen-Age Music International Show. It's so obvious, right?

Directed by Steve Binder
1964
DVD

Friday, May 14, 2010

Duplicity

This is an odd follow-up to Michael Clayton. It's not bad by any stretch but what the heck is it? SHR and I had no idea what was going on half of the time. It felt like an Ocean's movie but was about corporate spies rather than a typical heist. It had huge stars but Julia Roberts is such dead weight. There were absolutely no sparks between her and Clive Owen and there were supposed to be.

Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti were fun in their roles but the whole thing seemed a bit off. It strives way too hard to be irreverent and light. The first hour it kind of worked. But by the homestretch of the second half, I was ready for it to be over.

Directed by Tony Gilroy
2009
HBO

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Katyn

I had forgotten that I had wanted to see this movie until that recent Polish plane crash that killed many of their leaders. The delegation was on their way to Russia to commemorate the massacre in the Kaytn Forest of over 20,000 Polish officers by the Russian secret police in 1940. It was going to be the first time that a Russian leader was to officially acknowledge what happened. For years, the Russian government blamed the Nazis for the massacre.

This is a pretty good movie. It reminded me a bit of the recent movie about Sophie Scholl - a solid movie about a facet of World War II that I didn't know much about. Unlike Chris Larry, I don't say F World War II. I'm still into watching anything that will add to my understanding of the war. I liked the storytelling structure of this film - the way it went back and forth in time trying to unravel the mystery of what happened to the officers.

Apparently the eightysomething director, Andrzej Wajda is beloved in Poland. I'm pretty sure I haven't seen any of his other movies but now I'm curious about some of his other efforts over the years.

Directed by Andrzej Wajda
2007, U.S. Release: 2009
DVD

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Informant

I was familiar with the story from the Fresh Air piece but I had forgotten some of the details. I still can't get over how deluded Mark Whitacre was. Lie after unbelievable lie and for years he got away with it. Insane. I guess if a person can convince himself that he's the good guy than he can rationalize anything.

The direction is light and breezy, Ocean's 11 style. I like hearing Whitacre's thoughts throughout the movie especially as he's being cornered at the end. A smart, breezy little picture with a bunch of comedians and a fat Matt Damon sporting a silly moustache. Good stuff.

Directed by Stephen Soderbergh
2009
Blu-ray

Monday, May 10, 2010

Seconds

You are middle aged and bored. Why not have a surgery that can make you look like Rock Hudson? You'll have a whole new life. Don't worry about it - The Company will take care of everything. Your death will be faked. No problems at all. Your new life will be glamorous and carefree.

Just don't ask any damn questions. Got it?

I love how paranoid this movie is. It is super creepy and claustrophobic. And the ending is one of the more memorable I've seen in a long time ago. I don't think I've ever seen a movie quite like this. That's a good thing.

Directed by John Frankenheimer
1966
TCM

Thursday, May 06, 2010

A Foreign Affair

Finally - another Billy Wilder film in the Billy Wilder fest that I hadn't seen before. Interestingly, both feature Marlene Dietrich. And to be honest, I'd be fine if every movie I watched for the next 6 months featured her. She's unbelievable.

The film is set in post World War II Berlin. Dietrich is a singer carrying on an affair with an Army colonel played by John Lund. The problem arises when a straitlaced Iowa congresswoman (Jean Arthur) comes to Berlin to check on the rebuilding effort and is appalled by the moral ineptitude of what she finds in the city.

The film has some pretty incredible footage of the bombed out Berlin. It also features some great back and forth dialogue and one great romantic scene framed by file cabinets. And of course, it has Dietrich.

While this isn't one of my favorite Billy Wilder films, it does the job. It's funny, smart, and entertaining. Plus you've got to give the guy credit for making a comedy set in what should be a very unfunny environment.

Directed by Billy Wilder
1948
TCM

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Kind Hearts and Coronets

Sean had been telling me about this movie for a few months. I didn't know anything about it but when it showed up on the TCM schedule, I was excited to give it a chance. Bart and I took another week off from Billy Wilder to watch it. And it was quite worth it.

Basically the story goes like this - a distant ancestor to a family of aristocrats is pissed. His mother had been disowned years earlier for marrying beneath her lot. Her dying wish is to be buried in the family plot - a wish that is denied. So he decides to take revenge by killing all 8 of the heirs ahead of him so he can become duke.

The brilliance of the movie lies in who plays all 8 of the heirs - Mr. Alec Guiness. Young men, middle aged men, old men - even a woman. And he nails each role. The man is a genius. I need to see more of his movies. Other than Star Wars, this might be only the third Guiness film I've seen - The Lavender Hill Mob and The Bridge on the River Kwai being the others.

Each death is great. But my favorite definitely has to be the exploding jar of caviar. I could watch that scene over and over again.

Directed by Robert Hamer
1949
TCM

Sunday, May 02, 2010

A Face in the Crowd

Bart had been talking about this movie for months. I had tried to record it a couple of times and both times the DVR failed me. Finally, the stars aligned and it recorded perfectly. We took a break from the Billy Wilder series to watch it.

And holy moly, it is a truly stupendous film. I had no idea. Who would have thought that Andy Griffith could play such a badass? I can't believe how dark and cynical the movie is. Or just how magnetic a performer Andy Griffith was in the role of Lonesome Rhodes.

Rhodes is a drifter with a guitar discovered in prison by a radio talent scout. He becomes an overnight sensation. But then he starts using his fame to manipulate those around him as well as the masses. His rise to fame is brutal and his fall is satisfying to watch. I kept thinking that his bravado, cynicism, and complete lack of sincerity in the bullshit he peddled reminded me of Glenn Beck. It wasn't until later that day while I was watching Countdown that I realized that Olbermann has been calling Beck, "Lonesome Rhodes Beck" for ages now.

This is a more realistic, much less surreal film than The World's Greatest Sinner but they would make a pretty great double feature. Or throw in Ace in the Hole as well and you'd have yourself quite a day.

Not only was this Andy Griffith's film debut, it was also Lee Remick's as well. Plus it was one of Walter Matthau's first roles. See this movie if you haven't.

The lines that sum up Rhodes:
Lonesome Rhodes: This whole country's just like my flock of sheep!

Marcia Jeffries: Sheep?

Lonesome Rhodes: Rednecks, crackers, hillbillies, hausfraus, shut-ins, pea-pickers - everybody that's got to jump when somebody else blows the whistle. They don't know it yet, but they're all gonna be 'Fighters for Fuller'. They're mine! I own 'em! They think like I do. Only they're even more stupid than I am, so I gotta think for 'em. Marcia, you just wait and see. I'm gonna be the power behind the president - and you'll be the power behind me!


Check out the trailer.


Directed by Elia Kazan
1957
TCM