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  • I Start Counting

    I Start Counting

    ★★★★

    This year, next year, sometime never
    Paper dreams tied up with bits of string...

    The soundtrack to I Start Counting was written by Basil Kirchin, who also scored the first Dr. Phibes. For some reason, the twee pop tunes have become one of my go-tos whenever I throw together a playlist for cleaning the house, but until now, I had never actually seen the movie.

    I liked it a lot. It's not a sleazy thriller as the poster suggests, but…

  • Girls About Town

    Girls About Town

    ★★½

    Early in his career, George Cukor had been tagged as a "woman's director", and (if we disregard the homophobic connotations of that label for a moment) Girls About Town once again makes it easy to see why. This romantic comedy opens as an exposé on the (un-)glamourous lives of two co-habitating escorts, flavoured with plenty of pre-code snark which, nearly a decade later, hasn't lost any of its bite. Alas, about a third into the movie, just when it seems…

  • Center Stage

    Center Stage

    ★★★★

    Earlier this year, I read about the Chinese silent film actress Ruan Lingyu. She committed suicide at age 24, and according to her Wikipedia entry, the funeral procession was 3 miles long, with three women killing themselves during the event. As my friend Fabian commented, "way to steal the show."

    Despite its length of two and a half hours, Center Stage isn't a comprehensive biography, but can best be described as an experimental sequence of sketches. It traces Ruan's center-stage…

  • Mystery of the Wax Museum

    Mystery of the Wax Museum

    ★★★★

    I was not prepared for how good this film is! I definitely prefer it over the 1950s remake, Vincent Price notwithstanding. This one was well-written and just beautiful to watch. Love those slow camera movements. Stylistically, it's not only pre-code horror, but also a proto-noir, with expressionistic setpieces carried over from 1920s cinema. I wish I shared that attic room with the girls (and their Orry-Kelly wardrobe; is it ever explained how Ms. Wray makes a living if she's not busy performing calisthenics on her bedroom rug?). Everyone's right in loving Glenda Farrell, but don't forget that Fay Wray is such a darling.

  • The Singer Not the Song

    The Singer Not the Song

    ★★★

    In which Dirk Bogarde demonstrates how far you can take a career by cocking an eyebrow (pretty far).

    This movie, set sometime between 1880 and 1960, in some place between Eton, Spain, and Mexico, plunged me into an existential crisis. Not because of its "philosophical" content, but because it challenged one of my superpowers—I never get bored. If there was economic potential in watching paint dry, I'd be Scrooge McDuck. Yet The Singer Not the Song turned out to be…

  • The Philadelphia Story

    The Philadelphia Story

    ★★★★½

    Is this the apex of Classic Hollywood film-making? The Philadelphia Story is so grand, so elegant... yet as fluffy-breezy-noncommittal as a pavlova served in a pavilion on a clear-skied summer day. It takes place in the same upper-class fantasy world as the Raffaello ads I used to see on TV some 50 years later. I'm surprised it still attracts so many people, because with its leisurely pace it seems a lot more nostalgic and old-fashioned to me than the snappy…

  • The Clairvoyant

    The Clairvoyant

    ★★½

    British mystery thriller about a couple who tours music halls with their mindreading act, unaware of the man's actual clairvoyant powers. One day he meets a woman who sets off his dormant gift, and from then on he receives visions whenever she's near. When he starts predicting disasters, he is accused of triggering a mass panic, and brought to trial.

    Oh Claude. The Clairvoyant is how I see Claude Rains, this is him at his Rainsiest. I love how Fay…

  • Our Mother's House

    Our Mother's House

    ★★★★

    British drama by Jack Clayton (The Innocents) about seven children who grow up by themselves.
    That poster is trash; the tagline makes it sound like some horror/exploitation mix, which it isn't, and I don't even know what scene the illustration is supposed to be based on. There's no killer kids and no abusive mum.
    The mother, a vicar's daughter, is bedridden, and once a day everyone gathers in her room to read bible stories. After her sudden death, the children…

  • Mr. Forbush and the Penguins

    Mr. Forbush and the Penguins

    ★★★★

    This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

    !!!!!!!!!! I'm so excited, I finally got to see MR. FORBUSH AND THE PENGUINS!!!!!

    It's everything I wanted a film about John Hurt as a smug biologist who goes to the Antarctic to study the breeding cycle of penguins to be.

    I'll tell you what happens.
    Young mod Richard Forbush wakes up to his one-night stand eating bran and prunes. "Very moving", he comments. That's the level of humour we're dealing with. He wears mandarin-style mustard coloured silk pyjamas, because…

  • The Friends of Eddie Coyle

    The Friends of Eddie Coyle

    ★★

    Recently, I handed out a number of 2 star ratings for movies that seem to be pretty decent. 2.5 means "Ok" for me; 2 is "Ok, but...".

    The Friends of Eddie Coyle is ok, but it's the kind of '70s crime drama I don't enjoy. I can still see why others like it, and I would actually recommend it to quite a few friends of mine.
    Robert Mitchum is fantastic, this may be one of his best roles ever. I…

  • Dark Waters

    Dark Waters

    ★★½

    What a frustrating movie. It's so atmospheric, Southern Gothic at its finest. And the beautiful Merle Oberon gives everything in her portrayal of a shipwreck survivor, now combating PTSD.
    But then it gets bogged down in a predictable story that takes much too long to resolve. I'm still glad I watched it, for my collection of Swamp Movies. Besides, everyone loves Elisha Cook Jr.!

  • The Long, Long Trailer

    The Long, Long Trailer

    ★★★★

    [takes a deep breath]
    [Olive Oyl voice:] "EVERYTHING RIGHT IS WRONG AGAIN, JUST LIKE IN THE LONG LONG TRAILER"

    Sorry, I had to get that out of the way. That, and the fact that if MADtv ever got anything right, it's their I Love Lucy spoof.
    The Long, Long Trailer was so much better than I expected. It isn't Barbie's Dreamhouse on wheels, but a sharp satire on 1950s consumerism and "keeping up with the Joneses" mentality. I felt a…