Friday, December 24, 2010

Remembering the Movies, Dec. 24 - 30

Every Friday, we look back at films released 10-100 years ago this week.
Visit Remembering the Movies to further peruse the past

Despite the holiday season, there is not much Yuletide spirit on display this week - only drug lords, gangsters, and mad scientists, as well as a dumb blonde and brunette Ginger. As with last week, we must reach back 100 years ago to find something Christmas-themed (also as with last week, there's no capsule by me; I'm hoping to be able to resume the full-fledged approach in the new year). If you're looking for something in the spirit of the season, check out yesterday's visual tribute to A Charlie Brown Christmas. Otherwise, follow the Ghost of Christmas Past through the jump...

10 years ago (December 27, 2000)

"I don't get it. Maybe my bias against drug dealers, drug barons, and drug addicts as interesting characters is responsible, but I don't see this slightly better-than-average drug thriller, with slightly better-than-average direction by Steven Soderbergh, as anything more than a routine rubber-stamping of genre reflexes. (Even the film's racism—the implication that drug taking by teenage white girls logically leads to their having sex with black males—seems depressingly typical.)" - Jonathan Rosenbaum

"But the real star of the film is Mr. Soderbergh, who has demonstrated this year in Erin Brockovich and Traffic the full range of his versatility since his spectacular prize-winning splash at Sundance and Cannes in 1989 with Sex, Lies, and Videotape, a movie everyone I know said was grossly overrated. Contentious as always, I said I liked it a lot, and was determined to follow his career with special care. On the whole, he has not disappointed me, though his second film, Kafka (1991), struck me as something he had to get out of his system. King of the Hill (1993) was a humanist triumph, and what is wrong with a film commemorating the Great Depression and the people that survived it? The Underneath (1995) was much underrated by everyone but me. Schizopolis (1996) didn't quite come off, but Gray's Anatomy (1996) did everything that could be done cinematically for the comedy of Spalding Gray. But with Out of Sight (1998) and The Limey (1999), Mr. Soderbergh was truly out of sight with a Hawksian range of genres. Traffic marks him definitively as an enormous talent, one who never lets us guess what he's going to do next. The promise of Sex, Lies, and Videotape has been fulfilled." - Andrew Sarris

Traffic (2000)

20 years ago (December 25, 1990, wide release)

Gene: "Our first film is The Godfather Part III and in a nutshell this film is not in the same league as the other two movies, but not many movies are. There are problems with this new film, but it still has impressive strengths... I've already seen the film twice, enjoyed it more the second time, I'm sure I'll go back again, flaws and all." Roger: "It is flawed; it is good. One of the things that bothered me is that the screenplay seems kind of half-baked, half-finished. ... But on the whole, I agree with you, it's a beautiful-looking film, it's a beautiful-feeling film, it's great to see these people again. It's interesting the way they dig in to the controversy surrounding the Catholic Church. ... Now I want to discuss, with you, one of the central questions of Godfather III which you brought up, and that is did Francis Ford Coppola make a mistake by casting his own daughter Sofia in the important role of Michael Corleone's daughter Mary. And I disagree with you, I don't think so. ... But I think Sofia Coppola brings a quality of her own to Mary Corleone, a certain up-front vulnerability and simplicity that I think are appropriate for the role." - "Siskel & Ebert"

30 years ago (December 25, 1980)
"Dismissed in Hollywood as 'unbankable' after the thunderous — and, it must be added, well-deserved — failures of Lisztomania and Valentino, Russell was hired to direct the Paddy Chayefsky script only after 26 other directors turned it down.
Working with Chayefsky, however, proved less than a treat. 'He resembled an overweight Trotsky dressed as Chairman Mao, talked democracy and practised fascism,' Russell writes. 'He also had two false names, Paddy and Chayefsky...And if at last he was beginning to accept my input on the hallucinations, it was only because he was bereft of any visions of his own.' Directing William Hurt resembled psychotherapy. 'The trouble with Bill,' Russell says, 'is he can't stop talking. In the end his eternal nattering, usually about himself, became so unbearable that Viv (Russell's wife) and I would only take him out to dinner if he remained silent throughout the meal...When I heard that he was living with a deaf lady I came to believe in the old adage that marriages are made in heaven.'" - Entertainment Weekly (G. Lyons)
Altered States (1980) 

 40 years ago (December 25, 1970, wide release)
                                                
"There's almost no plot, the pace drags, and the cost-cutting Xerography technique—which replaces full 'in-between' drawings with slightly altered photocopies—looks too static. But Xerography's scratchy line has a lot of innate charm, and The Aristocats' emphasis on character interaction over story is a nice change of pace from most frenetic kid-flicks. Mostly though, The Aristocats ekes by on its voice cast: a mix of TV personalities like Pat Buttram, George Lindsey, and Eva Gabor, along with Disney staples like Sterling Holloway, Hermione Baddeley, and Phil Harris. If ever an entertainer was born to be a Disney character, it's Phil Harris, with his hip slang and yokel growl. While most of The Aristocats is negligible, the movie comes to life when Harris and Scatman Crothers sing 'Ev'rybody Wants To Be A Cat,' an exuberant number delivered with flashing colors and wanton racial stereotypes. For five minutes—and for five minutes only—The Aristocats becomes memorable." - Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
The Aristocats (1970)
50 years ago (December 28, 1960)

"Considering how lame the bulk of teen movies made in the late Fifties and early Sixties look in retrospect, Where the Boys Are stands up respectably well. Considering. That still doesn't change the ludicrous presentation of "moral" issues at hand nor does it obfuscate the silliest of stereotypes perpetrated within, but Where the Boys Are is nonetheless good, clean fun in the sun." - Margaret Mosel, Austin Chronicle

 
Where the Boys Are (1960) 
60 years ago (December 25, 1950)
"I have seen Born Yesterday at least twenty times and I am always grateful for Judy Holliday's performance. As Billie Dawn (a role she played for three years on the stage), the dumb blonde girlfriend of a wealthy slob who hires a writer to smarten her up, it is wonderful to see her character blossom, not just under the book learning, but the flowering of her own worth. It is just lovely to see her evolve from "I'm stupid and I like it" to "I know there's a lot better life then the one I've got". Judy Holliday is one of those actresses you wanted to hug. She had such a lovely open face and a sweet baby doll voice and makes Billie a little girl who grows up over the course of her journey. Born Yesterday is, of course, the film that would define Judy Holliday. Sadly, it forever stranded her in the image of the “quintessential dumb blonde” which I think is a little unfair. She was really very intelligent in real life and her previous and subsequent roles reveal an actress with a very nice range. I have given her a nomination for Born Yesterday and also for later performances in The Solid Gold Cadillac, It Should Happen to You and an Armchair Oscar for The Marrying Kind in 1952." - Jerry's Armchair Oscar
Born Yesterday (1950)   
70 years ago (December 27, 1940)


"In a long career of giving pleasure, this is one of the few occasions when she failed; it isn’t her worst acting (that’s probably in Tender Comrade) but there’s nothing in the soggy material to release the distinctive Ginger Rogers sense of fun." - Pauline Kael


Through it all, Ginger, guided by seasoned, sentimental Director Sam Wood gives the prime performance of her new departure into drama. Waltzing to Paradise or making love with handsome kinky-haired Dennis Morgan, she throws in a whopping supply of spirited romance. As a brokenhearted wife or the mother of a dead child, she plunges her scenes into deep tragedy. Kitty Foyle should fix an even more permanent place for Ginger in the hearts of her feminine fans." - Time Magazine


Kitty Foyle (1940)  
80 years ago (December 27, 1930)

"It's hard to believe that this amazing cartoon runs slightly less than six minutes, but it's true. Somehow those wildly imaginative animators at the Fleischer Studio managed to pack a lifetime supply of nightmare imagery, sexual gags, dreamlike transformations, and stupefying weirdness into this little black & white short. And they make it look easy! It takes a couple of viewings to absorb it all, and even then it leaves you feeling dazed." -wmorrow69, IMDb

Mysterious Mose (1930)  
90 years ago (December 26, 1920)

"Harold Lloyd’s short film Number, Please? is, it has to be said, not one of his best, but it does feature some of his typically inventive gags, especially a scene in which all he has to do is make a phone call, but is prevented in doing so by a cigar, a midget, a stupid woman, a bad memory, a lack of cash, a screaming baby and a Jewish stereotype. The film also features two excellent performances by dogs, which I realise is neither here nor there but canine thespianism is a much-overlooked aspect of cinema these days so I’m just doing my bit to big it up." - The Incredible Suit
Number Please? (1920) 
  
100 years ago (December 1910 - date uncertain, but probably around this time...)

4 comments :

Tony Dayoub said...

I actually saw GODFATHER III on opening day! This explains why I associate the Corleones with Christmas.

MovieMan0283 said...

Yeah, there's something weirdly Christmas-y about this film in particular - I can't put my finger on it. Maybe it's all the Catholicism, or like you said the fact that it opened on Christmas (I was too young to see it at the time, but I very much remember when it came out in theaters).

By the way, submissions are still open for the Blog 10 round-up! Let me know what post you would like to highlight...

Joe Thompson said...

Godfather III is one of those movies I have never seen all the way through at one sitting. It has some interesting theological points.

Born Yesterday is one of those movies I watch every time it is on tv. Judy Holliday was wonderful. I remember the first time my daughter watched the movie. She started out thinking that Judy Holliday's character was actually stupid. Then she saw the character grow.

You can't go wrong with Betty Boop.

I have to dig out "Number Please" and watch it again. Harold Lloyd's short movies usually zip right along.

I always wondered how they made Christmas Crackers.

I hope you have a happy and prosperous 2011.

MovieMan0283 said...

I've never seen Born Yesterday but, ironically enough, I did watch Godfather III on Christmas Eve (with my sister who has just been catching up with the Godfather films over the past month - she was disappointed with III but noted the theological ironies...)

Happy New Year to you as well!