Tuesday, August 12, 2008


WALL-E (2008) - Some hate it (my in-laws) but most love it (film critics). I loved it as well, especially the cinematic first hour spent on Earth. I liked the character of Wall-E quite a bit and I loved the visuals and the humor throughout.

KUNG FU PANDA (2008) - I was convinced by the trailers that this was going to be stupid so I was pleasantly surprised by one of the most entertaining animated films I've ever seen. There were some great scenes and the script was true rather than aiming at toddlers. It wins an Oscar any year without WALL-E.

TIME BANDITS (1981) - It feels more dated now but still resonates as the touchstone arty picture of my youth. The visuals have stayed with me since I last saw it over twenty years ago. It's not a perfect film but it's one for the vault. I watched it as a kid and now I've shared it with my kids. It's just creepy enough that it should stick with them for awhile.

THE FABULOUS BAKER BOYS (1989) - I remember wanting to see this when it was released and here it is nearly twenty years later when I get my chance. I liked it quite a bit. Michelle Pfeiffer is timeless beauty with bonus acting skills and I am quite the fan also of the Bridges brothers. I appreciated the lingering quality to the simple story from the writer/director.

THE CIRCUS (1928) - Lesser Chaplin is still plenty good. Mason and I were cracking up over the high wire sequence.

CONEY ISLAND/THE ROUGH HOUSE/GOOD NIGHT, NURSE!/BACK STAGE/THE GARAGE (1917-1919) - My first taste of the legendarily tragic Arbuckle gave me a good overview of his brand of comedy. I got a DVD with four featurettes in which he broke Buster Keaton into the business, then I caught the two earlier shorts on TCM. Fun Arbuckle factoids: (1) Fatty was his stage persona, he preferred to be addressed as Roscoe; (2) Here is the man who literally invented the pie in the face gag; (3) His terse scripts would generally run only a single page and here again is the man who coined the phrase "cut to the chase". Something else that surprised me was his habit of looking into the lens which immediately called to mind both Benny Hill and the Skipper, both rotund students of the master.

61* (2001) - The storied 1961 season starring Mantle and Maris as told by Mr Saturday Night is a decent little film about a living legend and a modest man performing legendary feats. The actors do a first-rate job of characterizing these guys though the film fails to be memorable aside from the excellent dual leads.

MONKEY BUSINESS (1952) - With this much A-list talent involved (stars Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers, Marilyn Monroe; director Howard Hawks; scribes IAL Diamond and Ben Hecht) one might expect more than this silly nonsense. At least there are a few memorable scenes of inanity.

HELLBOY (2004) - I remember hearing at the time that this was good and I recently realized that it was helmed by the talent that brought me the excellent PAN'S LABYRINTH, so I gave it a watch and was vastly underwhelmed. Ron Perlman is excellent in the title role but his performance is the only thing I really enjoyed during our time together. The stabs at humor don't work at all - it doesn't work as camp and neither does the film quite deliver as straight action/adventure.

BEYOND THE SEA (2004) - I've enjoyed the soundtrack but the film is instantly forgettable except in its conceit to explain why Spacey is fifteen years older than was Bobby Darin when he died.


Tom said...

I find THE CIRCUS an vastly underrated Chaplin film. It was funny, sweet, and it had pathos.

The first thing in life I was ever a student of was baseball with a concentration of Yankees history. 61* gets the history so right, especially in the personalities that it is a rare recent movie that I have seen 4 times. Even the modern day Sosa/MacGwire is handled decently although they could have skipped it entirely. Pepper is great as Maris and Jane is great at Mantle.

Yeah, Monkey Business is lesser Hawks, lessor Grant and lessor Monroe and still better than a Will Farrell vehicle.

I thought Beyond the Sea was terrible. It's not even the right history. The guy was married 3 times. What a mess.

Coincidence that I just recently saw the Baker Boys again. For some reason I thought that I had seen the movie with Dude when it came out. It must have been Dawn my other movie buddy. It's very much an 80s movie, but a joy to see that cast work together.

I have seen a Arbuckle movie with Mable, but I don't remember which one. I can see how Arbuckle is pretty much forgotten, because the movie was.

Dude said...

There were two surprises in the Arbuckle shorts:

In Back Stage, there is the gag with a platform house front falling on Buster and he survives by luckily passing through the window. That is Keaton's best known gag from a later film but this time it is Fatty's gag.

In The Rough House, Fatty puts forks in a pair of dinner rolls and does a little homage to the Little Tramp. This is years before Chaplin extends the gag in a famous scene from The Gold Rush.

It's not the easiest chore to watch films from a hundred years ago other than as history of the medium, but I wonder what other treasures are buried in the Arbuckle shorts.

He seems to have been the inspiration for the Little Tramp character altogether, as Chaplin's trademark bowler and baggy pants are the standard uniform of Fatty. Of course the pants are not baggy on the fat man but Chaplin wears Arbuckle's pants for comedic effect. Chaplin added the moustache and cane and had his persona.

It's all silly vaudevillian fluff nowadays but in his heyday, Arbuckle was the epitome of film-making and it is easy to see why he was so popular at the time. He's best remembered now as the poster child of Hollywood excess and debauchery even though the charges against him were fabricated by a money-grubbing ho looking for a payoff.

Tom said...

A great defense of Arbuckle showing once again that it's not original ideas that are remembered, but who the gatekeepers decide to endorse.

I remember reading that Keaton never really forgave Hollywood for turning its back on Fatty. He was a loyal friend to the end.

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