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[Retro Movie Reviews] Agatha (1979)

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Agatha-redgraveAgatha (1979) is a fictionalized account (postulation? theory? guess?) surrounding the true story of the mysterious disappearance of Agatha Christie in 1926 starring Vanessa Redgrave as Agatha, Timothy Dalton as her husband Archie and Dustin Hoffman as reporter Wally Stanton.

The main plot points of the film are based in fact. Early in December 1926, Archie asked Agatha for a divorce. He was in love with another woman, Nancy Neele. Agatha is distraught, refuses him and he angrily leaves to spend the weekend elsewhere. Agatha leaves the house, leaving a note for her secretary that she is going to Yorkshire, later her car is found by the side of the road near a lake with only her fur coat inside. Her disappearance was a national event, thousands searched for her, Arthur Conan Doyle held a séance to try and find her. She reappeared at the Old Swan Hotel in Harrowgate (which is not in Yorkshire) registered under the name Theresa Neele. Doctors said she suffered from amnesia, and no other explanation was ever given. Agatha didn’t even include the incident in her autobiography.

The film Agatha attempts to fill in the blanks between when Agatha disappears from their house and reappears at the Old Swan Hotel 11 days later. Agatha is following her husband’s lover, who is going to Harrowgate for treatment to lose weight. Harrowgate is a spa town and Agatha pretends she is there to receive treatment for a bad back. Stanton, an American reporter who becomes intrigued by Agatha’s story, easily follows her trail to Harrowgate where he also checks in to the Old Swan under an assumed name. The only word I can think of to describe Stanton is dandy, when he walks in to a room, he rattles off demands instead of greetings, flowers in his room every day (preferably roses, chrAgatha-hoffmanysanthemums, or lilacs), a valet to press his clothes. He hands out cash to all the staff asking for “the best service” from them all.

Stanton and Agatha become friends as he tries to figure out what Agatha is up to in Harrowgate. Agatha is plotting something. She begins asking questions of the spa workers, becomes interested in the different spa equipment that uses electricity and water, in particular, an electric chair that a patient can sit in, feet and hands in water while an electric current passes through the water. “Can it kill someone?” She asks the spa worker who laughs at her. She researches the machine like we think she would research one of the plots for her mystery novels.

As Stanton and Agatha spend more time together, he falls in love with her. He is desperately trying to figure out what she is scheming so he can stop her. The article he was writing entitled “How I found Agatha Christie” is soon forgotten as he gets closer to the truth. Ultimately, in a climax I won’t give away, we, like Harry, are stunned by her motives and her actions.

Agatha-romanceRedgrave’s Agatha is shy, awkward, but luminous. Stanton’s fascination with her is easy to understand. She smiles slowly, but is quick to laugh with him and the little romance between them is sweet especially with the height difference the director did not bother hiding. Hoffman seems a little uncomfortable as Wally Stanton. His diction is stilted, his mannerisms a little forced. But he seems to settle in. He is particularly good in the scenes with Redgrave, the intensity of his curiosity of her shines through his eyes and we feel it.

I didn’t have many expectations for this film but I was pleasantly surprised. Agatha is well acted, well plotted, well shot, and that makes it worth watching. Plus, I think the subject matter is compelling, my prior knowledge of Christie’s disappearance was a Doctor Who episode that involved giant bees. This, somehow seems more plausible a theory.

[Retro Movie Reviews] Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

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BC-sepiaEvery year during Turner Classic Movies’ annual “30 Days of Oscar,” my DVR gets pretty full. I scroll through the schedule on my channel guide and gleefully press record on all sorts of movies I’ve seen and loved, or I’ve been curious about but haven’t seen yet. This year, falling under the category “curious about but haven’t seen yet,” was the 1969 film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Admit it, haven’t you also been curious about this movie? Doesn’t it feel like everything from Top Gear to Beverly Hills Cop to Thelma and Louise has referenced this film? Haven’t you wanted to see what all the fuss is about?

I might have overestimated how much I actually wanted to see what all the fuss was about, because it sat there on my DVR list, moving further and further down as more episodes of Orphan Black, Broadchurch and Lizzie Borden Chronicles (why, oh why do I watch this show? Why can’t I stop?) piled on top. But this weekend, as I noticed that the free space on my DVR had dipped to an alarming 29%, I decided it was freaking time to freaking watch Butch Cassidy already.

And a slightly painful two hours later, I sat there on my couch shaking my head a bit, looking quizzically at my husband and said “I don’t get it.” The film begins with a sepia toned news reel about the death of Butch Cassidy’s Hole in the Wall Gang which then fades into a statement printed across the screen “What follows is mostly true.” Ok, so far so good…but wait, are we in the past now, or is this after the gang was killed? And wait there’s the Sundance Kid, which I only know because it’s Robert Redford, playing poker, and then Paul Newman walks in, there’s some shooting, I think to show us what a great shot Sundance is. Oh, and wisecracks, lots of wisecracks.

Then we follow Butch and Sundance to their hideout, a camp up in the mountains at a place called Hole in the Wall. There’s a brief mutiny, we learn that Butch is the “brains” of the operation, Sundance seems to be the “brawn”, and they are very loyal to each other. The gang robs a train, and then decided to rob it again when it passes back through town. Things go a bit awry when a posse comes after them during the second robbery and chases Butch and Sundance relentlessly through some pretty stunning old-westy landscape. Oh, and there’s wisecracks, lots of wisecracks.

BC-bikeThe relentlessness of this posse forces Butch, Sundance, and Sundance’s put-upon girlfriend Etta (played by Katharine Ross, better known as “ELAINE! ELAINE!) to flee to Bolivia. Butch has this wacky idea that there is a lot of money to rob down there because of all the mines, lots of payroll to steal. They go, they steal, they briefly try to go legit, Etta leaves them, and then they end up in a standoff with the Bolivian Army, I won’t tell you how it ends. Oh, and more wisecracks, a prolonged scene with Butch and Etta riding around on a bicycle while “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” plays in the background, and a wacky montage (in sepia tone, natch) of all the fun Butch, Sundance and Etta have while traveling to Bolivia, by way of Coney Island.

Let me speak to all the ladies out there, for a minute. Have you ever been in a relationship with a guy who was in a bromantic relationship with another guy, and you kind of always felt a little bit like the outsider? That’s this film. Butch and Sundance have the ultimate bromance. The film drips with it, oozes it. Literally, every scene is of them, every other character in the movie with the exception of Etta has about 3 minutes and three lines. Butch and Sundance are zinging one liners at each other while riding horses, shooting guns, running from people, robbing banks. Literally, it’s not conversation, it’s wise-assery. And with the level of high regard I hold for wise-assery, you’d think BC-sceneryI would have liked this movie more than I did. But it’s never fun to be on the outside of the joke, right ladies? Even though they let Etta join in on their schemes, she helps them learn the Spanish words for “hands up” and “this is a robbery.” But still even Etta cannot penetrate the solid gold bromance of Butch and Sundance and when Etta tells Sundance she is leaving them and going home, he’s just like “whatever.”

I wish instead of showing the trip from Old West, USA to Bolivia via Coney Island as a wacky montage set to incongruous Burt Bacharach music, director George Roy Hill had made their journey the whole movie. I would have liked to see that trip in more detail. It looked like fun. Instead, we got this meandering plot held together by wise cracks and some occasional gun play. The movie trips over itself to show us how affable and clever our heroes are, all to a ridiculous score by Burt Bacharach. Was this the start of the buddy comedy genre? Maybe. Would we have gotten Lethal Weapon without Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid? Maybe not. But I suppose you could argue, did we need either?

[Why Watch This] Badlands

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It’s hard to watch Terence Malik’s Badlands (1973) without using 2014 eyes. Instead of just seeing Kit, the main character, WWT- Feb 25- couplewalkingyou automatically think:  “Oh my god, look how young Martin Sheen is!” Same with Holly, the main female character: “Sissy Spacek looks like she is twelve years old!”  The one I struggled with the most was: “This movie feels like another ‘couple on a killing spree’ movie cliché.” But then I have to remind myself that most ‘couple on a killing spree’ movies came after 1973.

And it’s not fair for me to say that Badlands is a cliché, or that it created the cliché. But it is very hard to watch without making comparisons. Holly (Spacek) is a fifteen year old girl growing up with her single father in a small town in South Dakota in the 1950s, the story is told through her eyes using voice over narration. She meets Kit (Sheen) who she almost ambivalently falls in love with. He’s a “greaser” who drifts from job to job until he sees Holly walking down the street.

Holly’s involvement still feels detached as their relationship progresses,. They fall in love because they are together a lot, they have sex, they hang out. Then, Holly’s father forbids them from seeing each other and sends Holly to clarinet lessons to keep her busy, and she seems OK with that. Kit, however, is not. After unsuccessfully trying to change Holly’s father’s mind, Kit comes to the house and starts packing Holly’s suitcase. When her father intervenes, Kit shoots him.

Kit and Holly set her house on fire and run. They hide in the wilderness, building tree houses and stealing chickens until they are WWT- Feb 25- treehousediscovered. There is a shootout and Kit and Holly are on the run again. They try and hide out with one of Kit’s friends but when he tries to turn them in, they shoot him too. They end up at a rich man’s home for a few hours. I love the scene where Holly moves from chair to chair, as if she is testing each one, like she has never been in such an opulent environment before.

Kit appears very calculating, almost like he is writing a script. He is charming, loves being compared to James Dean, and at the end allows himself to be caught like he is playing a scene in a movie. He charms the marshals who have tracked him down and we do see a nice moment where he re-charms Holly, where she suddenly remembers why she was drawn to him in the first place.

Holly moves through the movie with a wide-eyed detachment. When her father is lying on the floor shot, she just stares at him and asks if they can help him. She accompanies Kit on this adventure with the same enthusiasm that any teenager approaches a family car trip. Toward the end she is tired of camping out, tired of running. She wants to leave Kit, they are being cornered by a WWT- Feb 25- couplehelicopter in the Badlands of Montana. Kit, still writing his script, tells her to meet him on New Year’s Eve 1964, and she just shrugs her shoulders. Damn kids today.

Malik has said that he thought of Kit and Holly’s journey as a fairy tale. And there is that quality. Kit and Holly live in the wild, kind of like the Lost Boys of Peter Pan, unaware the consequences of the real world pressing in on them. They are on a journey of sorts, their ultimate destination is Montana and they have to make it through the Badlands first.

I think what I wanted from this movie was more passion. Maybe it was my 2014 eyes again. Holly’s wide-eyed reaction to everything left me wanting more. Where’s the grief for her father? Where’s the heat? They should be ripping each other’s clothes off, right? She should be wanting to die with him—double decker bus and all that. But her ambivalence becomes mine and I can’t help but want more from my ‘couple on a killing spree’ movies. And sure, maybe it’s just two sociopaths falling in love, but teenage love should have more angst, I’m just saying.

[Why Watch This- Retro Movie Reviews] Wish You Were (Still) Here

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For my Year End Top 10 list I decided to list the top 10 actors/directors that I wished hadn’t died in 2014. We lost a lot of really talented people in 2014, sigh. People that were memorable to me, people who gave me some good memories, some more than others. Anyway, here is my very personal list of those I’ll miss the most:

10. Bob Hoskins– perhaps best known in the U.S. for playing the grumpy PI opposite a cartoon rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Hoskins made some well-known gangster movies back in his home country of England. Most memorable to me, probably because it’s the only one I’ve seen, is The Long Good Friday, a film I wrote a whole post about here. Bob Hoskins also holds the #2 spot on my “Best Shower Scenes Ever” list for the same film. Maybe someday I’ll let you know what #1 is.

9. Marian Seldes- OK, she’s mostly known for theatre, though she did some film and TV. I will forever remember her from anWWT-Dec 30- Marian opera I saw called La Fille du Regiment. It was at the Met in NYC but they were broadcasting it live to movie theaters here in LA, so I technically saw her on the big screen. She wasn’t even singing, spoke every line and STOLE every scene. I’ll never forget the way she said the line: “The BOBsled team!” Pure gold.

8. Alain Resnais- the unmatchable French director who directed Hiroshima Mon Amour, a surprisingly watchable and moving little film about memory and war and stuff.

7. Mike Nichols- there was a time when I was in college when The Graduate was my jam (and before you think I’m 100 years old, it was an old movie then too). The feeling of isolation and loneliness that permeates every frame of this movie really spoke to me at that time of my life. And if it’s on TV and I’ve got nothing else going on, I can still sit and watch it from start to finish. Oh, and I used to totally torment my college roommate when every time we would walk across the glass enclosed entryway into our dormitory, I would run up to the big glass window, pound on it and yell “Elaine! Elaine!” Her name wasn’t Elaine. I can’t really explain it.

6. Philip Seymour Hoffman– how do you just pick one? He was great in Capote, fabulous in The Talented Mr. Ripley, fantastic in Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, I could go on and on and on. He was great in everything. What a loss.

5. Robin Williams- one of the biggest losses of 2014. Everyone has their favorite, mine is The Fisher King. Wow what a good movie that is, and Williams is in the role that was made for him, maniac and tragic at the same time. When you watch it, you’ll wonder why he got the Oscar for Good Will Hunting and not this.

4. James Garner- guy was in a lot of TV and film, but my fave will always be Victor/Victoria. Garner plays the gangster kingpin that falls for Julie Andrews’ lounge singer. Catch: She’s a woman who pretends to be a man who performs in drag as a woman! Whaaat?!? Gender politics, musical numbers, it’s got it all!

3. Harold Ramis- as a director I have to go with Groundhog Day, as an actor, then Ghostbusters. Both are really Bill Murray’s show, but Ramis is a great straight man to Murray’s wackiness.

2. Rik Mayall– I know, I know, The Young Ones was a TV show, but it is a TV show that you should watch. Right now. I’ll wait. Mayall played Rick (I know, a stretch, right?) the pimple faced “People’s Poet” of the house. He was always my favorite and I’m sad to think he is no longer with us. Why are the kids crying? Because Rik, the people’s poet is dead.

1. Lauren Bacall- what can I say about Lauren Bacall? We share a name. When I was 5 I used to tell people that I was named after Lauren Bacall because when I told my Dad that I hated my name and nobody in the whole world had my name, he said “there’s a beautiful actress named Lauren Bacall.” And then, when he found out I was telling people I was named after Lauren Bacall, he made me stop and told me that I wasn’t named after her, we just have the same name. Whatever…I  was 5. Even though she had a lot of life after her first husband Humphrey Bogart died, she will forever be linked with him. My favorite Bogie and Bacall movie? Probably Key Largo. I wanted to like To Have and Have Not and The Big Sleep, but they were kind of dumb. That doesn’t mean I won’t watch them every single time they come on TCM.

[Why Watch This] Final Holiday Edition: The Shop Around the Corner

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Merry Christmas! Now shut up and watch this. You’re welcome.

Check out more great classic movie suggestions from Why Watch This

The Shop Around the Corner, 1940, will forever have the unfortunate distinction of being known as “the movie that You Got Mail was based on.” Ok, maybe I shouldn’t use the word “unfortunate,” sorry Eric. I mean, sure, Meg Ryan, Tom Hanks, America Online. Those are 3 things I fear that some of my 22 year old co-workers wouldn’t know if I said the words out loud. It’s like when I brought up Tony Danza and they just looked at me with a blank stare. Tony Danza?!? Nothing. How can you live in a world where you don’t know who Tony Danza is?

xmasAnyway, The Shop Around the Corner is my favorite holiday movie. Yes, it is even better than Die Hard, I promise you. The story centers around a gift shop in Budapest. Jimmy Stewart is Kralik, the head clerk of a little group of characters. His grumpy boss, played by Frank Morgan (who played The Wizard), hires Clara, played by Margaret Sullivan. Clarbickeringa and Kralik don’t hit it off and verbally spar. We then find out, independently, that they both have secret pen pals, and-surprise! Their pen pals are each other.

As we get closer to Christmas, the two pen pals want to meet each other. Kralik discovers his pen pal is Clara and chickens out. There are some other plots inside the shop going on, involving the owner, his wife and another clerk. Everything of course goes awry, people are mean to each other, Kralik loses his job and feels unworthy of Clara. Fortunately, everythindiscoveryg is put back together in a very satisfying way.

The Shop Around the Corner was directed by Ernst Lubitsch, the German born director famous for what is called “The Lubitsch Touch.” In my mind, I had attributed several movies to Lubitsch but I just discovered, thanks Wikipedia, that I’ve only ever seen one other Lubitsch movie, Trouble in Paradise, an equally charming movie from the 1930s.

So what, you may ask, is “The Lubitsch Touch?” In this movie I think it is the heart, the little touches that are windows into the depths or our characters. It is the vulnerability we see in the grumpy shop owner matushekwhen he confirms that his wife is cheating on him. It is the way the characters come together to help the owner at the end. It is the spirit of community and family, whether the ones you are born with or the ones you make. That feeling of Christmas I’ve always found the most meaningful, taking your stock boy to the best dinner he’s ever had because he is away from his family, or Pirovitch, the Jewish clerk, talking about his family in his small little apartment and how he can’t wait to go home to “Mama.” In this movie, to me, this is the Lubitsch touch. You want to work for Matuschek and Company and sell those stupid cigarette cases, or at the very least shop there. It is everything that You’ve Got Mail is missing, as that movie focuses entirely on the two pen pals, and forgets the worlds they live in and the people who occupy those worlds.shop workers

This morning, before writing this, I decided to use my friend Google to find out what is the technical definition of “The Lubitsch Touch.” Turns out it was a marketing scheme back in the day developed by the studios to promote Mr. Lubitsch who was new to America. That was a little disappointing. However, I think everyone agrees that Mr. Lubitsch does have a touch, and it’s all over the place in the 2 whole movies of his that I have seen. So watch this movie, dammit. Set your DVRs, TCM is showing it on Christmas Eve.

[Why Watch This?] Holiday Edition Part VI: Christmas Vacation

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It’s Christmas eve- and some of you may be stuck with your families and hating life. Well- if you are- then all you need to do is repeat after me “It could be worse. We could be Griswolds”

I think everyone of a certain age has a very particular opinion about what is the best Vacation movie. Me? European Vacation. All. The. Way. “Look kids! Big Ben! Parliament!” Who doesn’t love that? I mean, let’s be real here, the whole point of any 80s movie is the quotable lines. This is why my favorite commercial of ALL time is the Old Navy “European Rusty” Christmas commercial. Love it. He’s in the beret. He’s in the beret!!! Yes, maybe you have to be 40 to get it, but I’m 40 so shut up. My second favorite is probably Christmas Vacation, and hurray! It fits with our theme here, so here is my three paragraph argument as to why you should watch Christmas Vacation.

crazy faceThe thing you wait for in all Vacation movies is when Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold loses his shit. All of Clark’s carefully laid plans fail in spectacular fashion during the course of the movie, but usually there is that one moment where he can’t hold it together anymore and he loses it in a big explosion of profanity. The premise of Christmas Vacation is that the Griswold’s aren’t dinnergoing on vacation at all, they are creating the good old fashioned family Christmas at home and inviting all the various relatives that come with it. The family bickers, Cousin Eddie shows up unannounced (played with gleeful revoltingness by Randy Quaid). Clark has many whacky scenes setting up an extreme light display on the exterior of his house, much to the derision of their yuppie neighbors. Ah, yuppies, remember them? One of them is played by Julia Louis Dreyfus! They go into the woods and dig up a tree (Clark eddieforgets the saw).

This is all leading up to the big dinner when everything really falls apart. The ancient cousins and aunts and uncles show up. One of them is a little senile and wraps her cat and her Jell-O mold as presents. Now, things start going off the rails. Turns out there is a squirrel in the tree they dug up, the discovery of said squirrel causes much chaos and destruction. Aunt Bethany’s cat decided to chew on the Christmas tree lights and electrocutes itself. And Clark keeps chugging along, until he discovers that the Christmas bonus he had been expecting to use to install a pool, turns out to be the jelly of the month club. Outburst ensues which inspires Cousin Eddie tocat go kidnap Clark’s boss, and well, I’ll skip to the end, everything turns out OK!  (After an explosion in the storm drains due to Cousin Eddie dumping his chemical toilet in the gutter. But it’s ok, because it launches the plastic Santa and his sleigh from the Griswold roof through the sky, almost as if it were the real Santa) Hurray! Clark is a family hero.

bonusOK, so yeah, it’s a pretty stupid movie. But an awesome stupid movie. This isn’t my favorite version of Chevy Chase, I always preferred his wise-cracking trouble making ala Fletch, but it’s hard not to laugh at him as Clark. He gets that wide eyed look and you know you’re in trouble. I’m sure everybody has that guy in their family, the crazy idea guy, the family bonding guy, the let’s all buy matching berets and take our picture on the Eiffel Tower guy. But we love them anyway, right? Sure we do! It’s the standing around while shaking our heads as everything falls apart that brings us closer together.mug

 

By the way…last minute gift? These are available on Amazon!!

[Why Watch This?] Holiday Edition Part V: Die Hard

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It’s Christmas eve!  Aren’t you glad you’re not at some terrible 80’s LA office party filled with drugs and terrorists and feathered hair and a totally hunky undershirt wearing Bruce Willis? No? Well- you can visit that magical world by watching this all time great holiday classic.

athertonWilliam Atherton was the ultimate guy you wanted to punch in the face in the ‘80s. In Die Hard, 1988, the whole movie is John McClane vs. anyone who disagrees with John McClane. And this movie was at the cusp of Bush I, not even Bush II, I know, weird! I love how the press and the FBI are portrayed in equally unflattering ways as the terrorists in this movie. This is, of course when terrorists were just a motley group of long haired Germans who want money, and not the Terrorists they are today. Yes, Virginia, there was a time when terrorists were white and had hair the color of spun gold. And yes, I know one of them in this movie is African American, I’m making a point here! Geez.terrorists

Do I have to explain the plot? Ok, John McClane is a New York cop. His wife, Holly, played by Bonnie Bedalia, has moved to LA for a career opportunity with their children. John is arriving in LA to visit for thpartye holidays, and is meeting Holly at her office. Things are weird between the two of them, we learn. Anyway, John gets to the office, an office party is going on, awkwardness, awkwardness, John goes into Holly’s office to conveniently take of his shirt and shoes and clean up. While his shirt and shoes are off, kablamoo! Gun shots, the office party is being taken over by terrorists! John quickly escapes the office before he is discovered, in just his bare feet and undershirt. Get it? He’s just in his undershirt and bare feet.bruce

Cat and mousrege ensues throughout the, still under construction, high rise. People are killed, things are said. One of those is: “Yippe-ki-yay mother fucker.” John befriends Sgt. Al Powell (played by Reginald VelJohnson, who later would go on to be Erkel’s foil in “Family Matters”) via walkie talkie. Al’s wife is pregnant and he hates guns cause he shot a kid. Doesn’t matter, though, because like all good ‘80s movies, it’s Al and John as the regular Joe’s vs. the FBI, the LAPD, a stern faced Paul Gleason, the terrorists, the press, the world. It must have been so hard to be a manager in the ‘80s because all of your employees thought they were infinitely smarter than you. Assholes. What’s worse is that they were! Dammit.

santaAnyway, the only person dressed as Santa in this one is a dead terrorist, but other than that, it still gets you in the mood for the Holidays. Right? Drunken office parties that go horribly awry? Check. The boss you sort of like and also sort of hate until he gets shot in the head by a German terrorist because he won’t give him the code to the safe and then you feel bad? Check. Bruce Willis in all of his ‘80s swashbuckling charm? Check and check. Exploding helicopters, people falling out of high rise windows in slow motion, stunts that are improbable at worst and totally awesome at best? Merry Fucking Christmas!stunt

 

[Why Watch This?] Holiday Edition Part IV: The Thin Man

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It’s Christmas eve! Why not celebrate with a classic movie marathon? Well, maybe because your family is in town and they’d rather watch crap- but you can learn ’em good by just following our Why Watch This recommendations of classic Christmas movies.

If you’ve ever wondered from where all the plots, devices, and themes in just about every murder mystery made after 1934 were derived, here is your source. It is like finding the source of the Nile, elusive yet obvious, and for most, not worth—gasp—watching a black and white movie to see. Yes, a whole back and white movie. I’m going to present my argument here for why you should watch a whole black and white movie.

And it’s not just murder mysteries that can count The Thin Man and subsequent sequels as grandfather, it’s any sort of wise-cracking rom-com or any movie with a dog, or really anything that has been made since 1934, trust me. Nick and Nora, sound familiar? It should, and this is wheropeninge it all started.

Forget drunk Santas, in The Thin Man, everyone is drunk and loving it! When first we meet Nick, the ex-cop married to an heiress, he is at the hotel bar lining up the martinis. Soon he is joined by Nora, his wife, dragged into the bar by their loveable pooch Asta. The Charles’ are in New York for Christmas, who knows why, they are rich and living it up. Nora lines up the martinis to catch up to Nick, that’s what makes her such a great wife, you see. She’s rich and she participates in Nick’s bad behavior.

The only thing that’s kind of annoying about NorMyrnaa is her obsession with crime and investigation. When an old friend finds them and asks Nick to find her father who seems to have disappeared, Nick is hesitant, but Nora is all over it and pushes him in head first. The ensuing action is Nick solving the disappearance of “The Thin Man” while dodging Nora at every step. He’s dodging her to “protect her” which isn’t patronizing at all. Even for the ’30s. The whole thing culminates at a dinner party (!) where all the suspects are invited. Nick sits at the head of the table asking questions until someone trips up, and bang! Fingers pointed, accusations made, crime solved!

But seriously, why in the heck wouldn’t you want to watch this movie? The chemistry between William Powell (Nick Charles) and Myrna Loy (Nora Charles) is sparkling. It’s no joke, Hollywood recognized it too, they went on to make 14 movies together, not all of them in the Thin Man oeuvre (though 6 Myrna and Bill TM all  were). It’s charming, they drink like a couple of fishes on New Year’s Eve (wait, that’s the sequel! Ha! Literally 1 person just got my joke, thanks honey!).

A few years ago we went to a screening of The Thin Man at The Silent Movie Theatre (name drop) in Hollywood (name drop) and young people were there and everything. They even enjoyed themselves, and not just because they were serving dirty martinis. So, pour yourself one and check this one out. I’m almost pretty positive you won’t regret it.

[Why Watch This?] Holiday Edition Part III: Scrooged

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It’s Christmas time! Time to revisit our Why Watch This list of all time great holiday movies! Never seen these- this is your chance to catch up on some classics.

Watching Scrooged, 1988, you want to believe that every word, every weird little quirk and voice, is spontaneously coming from Bill Murray’s mouth. Back then, before he became Oscar nominated Bill Murray, he was ex-SNL alum Bill Murray and he was like that. Whether it was true or not, and some Scrooged setreports seem like it was partially true, it felt like he was making it all up on the spot and he was some sort of comic genius. Which is true at least, he was/is some sort of comic genius and if you don’t agree with me because you’re judging Zissou, then I challenge you to go back and watch Scrooged. And Ghostbusters, but that’s not a Holiday movie.

Scrooged is A Christmas Carol updated to the career driven corporate greed era of 1988. Murray plays Frank Cross, an imperious, over aggressive and overdramatic TV executive. His network is planning a live broadcast of A Christmas Carol, starring Mary Lou Retton as Tiny Tim, Buddy Hackett as Scrooge, there are Solid Gold Dancers in skimpy outfits, it’s a grand spectacle by design. LeeS bm 1 Majors stars in a particularly violent trailer for the event that causes one old lady watching to have a heart attack, to which Frank Cross clee majorsrows, “That’s fantastic, you can’t buy publicity like that!”

So yes, Frank’s got some lessons to learn. They are introduced to him via the ghost of Lew Hayward, the TV executive that had taken Frank under his wing early in his career, who is now a decaying golf playing, drink swilling ghost. In between increasing funny and ridiculous scenes of Frank interacting with the world, and reacting to his supernatural visits, three ghosts come to him and do the whole, past, present, future thing. What unfolds is parallel to the rehearsing of the Christmas Carol broadcast as the action manifests in the real world for Frank Cross.

Buster Poindexter is the Ghost of Christmas past disguised as a cabbie who takes him back to Christmas Eve of his childhood, receiving lamb chops from his butcher father (played by Bill Murray’s real life brother, Brian Doyle Murrabustery), seeing his Mom, getting all teary (“Niagara Falls, Johnny Angel, Niagara Falls.” Best line in the movie!). My only complaint is Carol Kane as Ghost of Christmas Present is a little too over the top which is saying something in this movie where everyone is operating at an 11.

All the craziness ccarol Kaneulminates in the inevitable live broadcast being taken over by Frank Cross. He delivers a speech that makes us wonder again if Murray is off-script, for it’s lack of cohesiveness more than anything. Lessons are learned, relationships are rebuilt, life is reaffirmed, as it should be in a good Holiday Movie. And, as a bonus, there is lots of comedy gold in Scrooged. I mean Bobcat Goldthwait is in it. Bobcat fucking Goldthwait! And, I challenge you not to get a little choked up yourself at the end when little Calvin, the son of Frank’s assisbobcattant Grace, provides the Tiny Tim moment in the real life action. It’s farce with a heart and a great sing-a-long at the end. Holiday movie gold!

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