I finally cracked and got Netflix, so now here's a page to keep track of what movies I watch (with the occasional Turner Classic movie sneaking in). There will be no 2000 word reviews here (and isn't the world a better place for that?), just quick notes.
(Oh well, I gave in and started writing posts for some movies. Titles with full posts are linked; anything without a link is just quickly summed up on this page.)
So here we go:
Angel Face (1952) Jean Simmons is a bad girl pretending to be good so she can suck Robert Mitchum into her plot against her hated stepmother. Mitchum sees right through her act (come on, she drives an awesome sportscar, has Barbara Stanwyck's hair from Double Indemnity, and apparently wears eyeliner to bed) but can't resist her. If you can't see where this is going, then you probably think femme fatale is a type of dessert.
Double Wedding (1937) Another pairing of Myrna Loy and William Powell. Determinedly wacky with a weak supporting cast, it's an 87 minute movie that feels exhaustingly much, much longer.
Enchanted (2007) Let me be the 5 millionth person to say, "Enchanting!" Funny, romantic, and clever. Though you're probably not supposed to cry as much as I did (oh all right, I guess I am kind of easy).
The House on Telegraph Hill (1951) Solid but unsurprising early '50s noir. Most interesting because of its use of a WW II concentration camp as a plot device. Suffers greatly from weak male performances, but Italian actress Valentina Cortese does a fine job. It's directed by Robert Wise, who had one of the most eclectic resumes you'll ever see in the movie biz.
I Wake Up Screaming (1941) Noir which I'd read good things about but found rather disappointing. Slow paced, with uninspired acting. Betty Grable in a rare dramatic role proves why that was rare. Mostly notable for the brief appearance of the intriguing Carole Landis.
The Illusionist (2006) I really, really liked this movie and I so desperately wanted to fall in love with it. Loved Edward Norton, loved the score, loved the look of the film--I am after all quite fond of Vienna (I know it was filmed in Prague, but the Czech city was an admirable stand-in). I'm a big fan of late 19th-early 20th century magicians. But I thought Jessica Biel was miscast. And I thought the whole Usual Suspects twist at the end didn't quite come off. Overall, I felt that it just fell one step shy of really working. Yet I'm still thinking about it.
Linda Linda Linda (2005) Japanese film about girls in a band who, after losing two members only three days before the big school rock festival, try to fill in the lead vocalist gap with a Korean exchange student, whose grasp of Japanese is a little shaky. Slow opening, and overall I would have liked a brighter pace. I also had expected more music. But the relationships between the girls is realistic and extremely well-done; it feels like you're really sitting around with a group of your friends from high school.
Lord Love a Duck (1966) Roddy McDowell and Tuesday Weld in a satire of California youth culture that misses more than it hits.
Nightmare Alley (1947)
Platinum Blonde (1931) Disappointing early Jean Harlow comedy. She's an heiress, Robert Williams is a reporter sent to dig up dirt on her family, they fall in love, she tries to make him over into a "high society" type and he realizes the girl for him is his loyal buddy at the newspaper, Loretta Young. Has some nice early 1930s zippiness and Pre-Production Code toeing the line, but some of the dialogue gets pretty clunky. Not Riskin's best. The whole movie is oddly miscast. Williams is annoying--he's much better suited to being the, well, annoying hero's sidekick than a leading man. Jean Harlow does her best with the upper-class heiress part, but it gives her no room to show off her comic ability. Loretta Young is completely unbelievable as a guy's girl at the office. With her rounded tones and precise enunciaton, she'd make much more sense as the heiress.
Ratatouille (2007) Beautifully animated (love the Paris at night scene) and a clever story. Again, this could have been about 10-15 minutes shorter and no one would have missed anything. I give it points for not using stars to do the voices (no comedians set loose to scream their act into the story). I take away points for creating a restaurant kitchen with no pastry chef. Cooks. They're so vain and so sloppy.
Red-Headed Woman (1932) The tone is set in the opening montage when Jean Harlow's Lillian asks the saleswoman in a clothing store if the dress she's trying on can be seen through. When the disapproving saleswoman replies "yes," Lillian says, "Okay, I'll wear it out." She's a gold digger and doesn't pretend to be anything else. Lillian won't win an ethics award, but she's so cheerfully blatant in her machinations that it's hard to dislike her.
A Scandal in Paris (1946) An early Douglas Sirk film that is remarkably silly and remarkably fun. Set in the early years of Napoleonic France, the film stars George Sanders as a master criminal turned police chief. George Sanders, the king of sang-froid, should just be an adverb ("He stared at his would-be assassin with a cool, sandersly gaze, then slowly poured himself a drink."). The movie is hysterically funny in its blithe disregard for period costumes or manners. I mean, you know you're in trouble when you find yourself saying to someone, "Well, I don't know much about what Parisian nightclub acts in 1793 were like, but..."
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946) Another highly touted noir that I just didn't like as much as I think I'm supposed to. I'm not sure why. It felt very long. The ending felt like a copout. It seemed like the setup was good but the film didn't do as much with it as I would have liked. And I guess I never enjoy watching Barbara Stanwyck. Nice enough debut from Kirk Douglas. Van Heflin was more tolerable than usual. The best part was Lizabeth Scott doing a dead-on Lauren Bacall imitation (and maybe outdoing Bacall), when Bacall had only been on the scene for about two years.
Superbad (2007) Mostly supercute, but could have superbetter if it had been a little shorter.
Trouble in Paradise (1932) Cute comedy about jewel thieves (Miriam Hopkins and Herbert Marshall) conspiring to rob a wealthy Parisian widow, until love intervenes. Marshall's a stiff, but Hopkins is great as always--she was one of the top comedic actresses of the 1930s, but sadly often gets overlooked these days. Kay Francis plays the widow with her usual high-class elegance (she always seems like she'd be uncomfortable in anything but an evening gown) mixed with a touch of raciness; she has one hilarious exchange with Marshall that is one of those great examples of how much they got away with in the pre-Code era. Worth watching.
Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950) The cast of this movie could be described as "Dana Andrews, Gene Tierney, Gary Merrill and a bunch of mugs." It's a festival of tough guys beating up other tough guys. Directed by Otto Preminger, with a Ben Hecht screenplay, I still didn't find this to be more than a "good cop makes a bad mistake" movie. I mean, it was a fine enough little stripped down noir, but not particularly chilling or peopled with memorable characters in the way of something like Angel Face (see above).