Favorite films

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  • Monkey Business

    ★★★★

  • Horse Feathers

    ★★★★

  • The Palm Beach Story

    ★★★★½

  • Sullivan's Travels

    ★★★★½

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  • Monkey Business

    Monkey Business

    ★★★★

    This is the first Marx Bros installment to be conceived as a movie, as opposed to a direct adaptation of their theatrical work. It's a notable improvement. The form lets them crank up the joke pacing and provides opportunities for more creative use of space (setting it on an ocean liner feels like a deliberate response to that palette expansion). My one complaint is that the ending, pretty much everything after they get off the boat, feels like they've run out of gas. The gag where they all imitate Maurice Chevalier after apparently stealing his passport is the highlight for me.

  • Horse Feathers

    Horse Feathers

    ★★★★

    This may be the quintessential Marx Brothers movie. It does everything a Marx Brothers movie should, short of repeatedly making a fool of Margaret Dumont. No one says it's the BEST one, though it's the favorite of many. It's the "college comedy" archetype, which is a perfect setting for them, providing stodgy academics to tear down, a football game to ruin, and drinking establishments to infiltrate (a speakeasy in this case, given 1932 was in the midst of prohibition). It…

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  • Lust for Life

    Lust for Life

    ★★★½

    While the screenplay is a fairly faithful rendering of Van Gogh's tumultuous life, it is missing the dramatic spark of authenticity that I felt it needed to draw me in. I could see that Van Gogh was passionate about his artistic convictions but it never convinced me to empathize, nor did it give me any real insight into his mood swings or changes in style. For an emotional persona like Van Gogh, it needed a more convincing psychological portrait. Kirk Douglas and Anthony Quinn portray these great artists with vigor, almost to the point of campiness. The set and location shooting mirror Van Gogh's painting beautifully.

  • Detective Story

    Detective Story

    ★★★★

    A flawless cast, a tight script (easily identifiable as a stage play), and the meticulous direction of William Wyler deliver a compelling "detective story"--that is, a character study of a New York City police detective. To the extent that there is a "case" to solve, it is the unfolding of what makes the central character who he is--why is he so inflexible? Why can't he see nuance? Why does he feel the need to embody the law himself? This film…