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  • Angels Over Broadway

    Angels Over Broadway

    ★★

    As soon as the playwright comes up with the idea that drives the plot, my first thought was, “that’s a dumb idea that will never work,” and I kept hoping they’d just ditch it and something else would present itself instead.  That seemed like a distinct possibility, as the film wanders from the nightclub, to backstage at a theater, to the hotel room before the poker game; they all seem to be waiting for a better idea to come along.…

  • Only Angels Have Wings

    Only Angels Have Wings

    ★★★★

    Maybe the best-filmed, most dramatic flying scenes I’ve ever seen. Clear evidence, to me at least, that the drama and the tension is not about how realistic looking the stunts and effects are, but how you dole out the information needed to understand what’s at stake and why.


    Cary Grant is handsome and everything, but Thomas Mitchell just acts circles around him in scene after scene. A true actor.  And it’s basically the opposite with Jean Arthur and Rita Hayworth - Arthur is probably a better actress, all told, but Hayworth just steps onto the screen and the temperature immediately rises.

  • Blackmail

    Blackmail

    ★★

    “How old would you say this man was?” 
    “Oh, I wouldn’t know, sir.  He had his hat on.”

    Hitchcock is playing with drawn out scenes of tension and suspense, but with mixed results.  The scene in the apartment, that culminates with the murder, is effective; the later scene, when the blackmailer makes himself known, feels like it would work better on stage, or maybe with better editing (and more options for camera placement, perhaps.) And when it doesn’t work, it…

  • The Thief of Bagdad

    The Thief of Bagdad

    ★★★

    An entertaining spectacle full of great effects, featuring the great Anna May Wong.

  • Seven Chances

    Seven Chances

    ★★★

    This is the one and only time I’ve ever watched a silent film and wished it maybe wasn’t so silent.  The central premise is clever and silly enough, but it really felt like the seven proposals would have been funnier if words had been involved.  Potentially, anyway.  

    And so it doesn’t really get going, in terms of physical comedy - of which Keaton is the king - until the army of brides are chasing him all over the place.  And then the boulders.  Those sequences are great, really great.  It just takes a long time to get to them.

  • Greed

    Greed

    ★★★

    You get the feeling that, if Erich Von Stroheim had his way, going to see a film would be an all-day affair, with multiple intermissions and meal breaks. Nine and a half hours - dang. I guess the length of current feature films is mostly borrowed from the length of stage dramas, dating back probably to Ancient Greece, sort of like how roads in Europe are the width they are because of chariot wheels.  Even at half its original length,…

  • Our Hospitality

    Our Hospitality

    ★★★★★

    I know the conventional wisdom is that The General is Buster Keaton’s best feature film, and while it’s an endlessly technically impressive movie - the number of times Keaton risks his life making that film is just insane - it... isn’t very funny.  I prefer this film, even though it’s pretty slow to get started - the train sequence here is more charming than actually funny.  But once he’s in the house, it really gets rolling, and is a ton of fun. And then there’s that amazing waterfall stunt, which rivals anything in The General in terms of both danger, skill, and ingenuity.

  • A Man of Principle

    A Man of Principle

    ★★

    When you think the government is really awful in America, sometimes it’s helpful to watch a movie like this and remember that it is often so much worse other places.  We’ve certainly got lots of problems, but at least in America, it’s not dangerous to voice a political opinion. 

    That said, this is basically a second rate gangster film, only the gangsters are politicans, fighting for control of the government.  But like a lot of gangster fims, it doesn’t really…

  • A Matter of Honour

    A Matter of Honour

    ★★★

    This screened at Sundance Film Festival 1990 (before it was called Sundance) as part of their focus on Colombian film making.  It’s available on YouTube if you search the Spanish title, but it looks like a VHS transfer. 

    This is a darkly funny movie.  Two men, the professor and the butcher, are committed to defend their honor by dueling at noon, though neither of them seem the least bit excited about it. The film never explains why they are dueling,…

  • La langosta azul

    La langosta azul

    ★★

    This played at the Sundance Film Festival in 1990, as part of their focus on Colombian film.  It’s available on YouTube. 

    I tried twice to keep the thread of the narrative, but both times I lose it at the same spot.  The guy shows up, takes the shrink-wrapped lobsters out of his case, then goes to the bathroom.  The cat steals one of the lobsters. He goes looking for it, all over the town, and meets a woman in a…

  • La boda del acordeonista

    La boda del acordeonista

    ★★

    This played at the Sundance Film Festival in 1990 (when it was still called the USA/Utah Film Festival) as part of that year’s focus on Colombian films.  It’s available on YouTube. 


    My first attempt at watching a movie in Spanish without subtitles. I think I mostly understood, but there was a lot I missed.  


    Hay una mujer del agua, y un viejito quien les da la cuenta de ella a unos ninos.  Hay una novio y novia - la…

  • The Dreaded

    The Dreaded

    There must be some mistake. IMDB says this played in theaters in January 1990, but there’s no way a distributor actually bought this and sent it to theaters to be screened.  The actors are not professional, there doesn’t appear to be any lighting at all, and the whole thing feels way more like a group of friends having a good time - filmmaking as hobby - than an actual film anybody would want to see.  If I were in this…