Wednesday, April 30, 2008

April Movie Watching

I saw four films theatrically this month, although the best movie of the month, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, I saw in an advance screening in March.

Shine A Light was really worthwhile, whether you’re a Stones fan or not. Scorsese did a bang-up job and even at their advanced age (referenced many times in the film) the Stones put on a great show. The interview bits past and present aren’t as good as the filming of the concert itself.

Leatherheads was decent. As the reviews it received suggest— it was just all right. Oddly, it had a ‘30s/40s film style, but is set in the 1920s. In my opinion, John Krasinski outshone his Oscar-winning co-stars.

Son of Rambow was ambitious but didn’t do much for me: I guess the filmmakers had the best intentions, however, so it’s hard to fault.

Smart People was very funny. My friends and I joked though that it was so “white” people. Then watching the movie I was embarrassed that the only time you saw anyone of color is when Thomas Hayden Church shouts to Dennis Quaid “Don’t forget, I love you…” (he was reminding him what to say to Sarah Jessica Parker) and there is a cut to three tough guys—oh brother!— the nadir of the film.

By the way, last month, I suggested that Horton Hears a Who! was destined to break into the top 100 domestic grosses— it hasn’t come close, currently at #164, with the summer movies ready to push it off the screens.

This month on TCM I watched Up the River (1930), Spencer Tracy’s first movie and Humphrey Bogart’s second. It wasn’t great and is only recommended if you’re curious to see these actors in this early part of their career—but trust me you could skip it. More interestingly to me is the terrible condition the print is in. There were, no exaggeration, over 100 jump cuts where short pieces of the film and/or sound are lost as well as scratches throughout— it seems amazing it even exists when you see what poor condition it’s in. Even though he plays a con, Bogart shows his real life Broadway actor/blueblood background, before he developed his tough guy persona.

TCM presented the two restored Abel Gance films: J’Accuse and La Roue. Both at epic length, I watched J’Accuse, which was the one I was most interested in seeing of the two. It was very good, but mostly “very good for its day.” Although it was admirable in content and technique, it didn’t really bowl me over truth be told. The restoration, however, was stunning— just perfect. I’m glad I saw it but, easily, Napoleon is far and away Gance’s lasting masterpiece. I also watched Kevin Brownlow’s hour-long 1968 BBC documentary Abel Gance: The Charm of Dynamite, covering his silent period. The documentary featured revealing behind-the-scenes footage of the making of Napoleon— illustrating its many innovative filming techniques (hand held, etc.). It speaks so highly of La Roue, I might need to catch up on that film (four hours is a big chunk of time to schedule though!).

Flipping the channels, I caught the “Easy To Love” number from the Jimmy Stewart-Eleanor Powell musical Born to Dance— odd number but nice song (I knew the song from an old album of movie songs I had once borrowed from the library as a kid: it was funny to happen to catch this exact moment of the film after all these years).

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