Monday, December 29, 2014

Movie – The Story of the Last Chrysanthemum (1939)

The Story of the Last Chrysanthemum, sometimes translated incorrectly as The Story of the Late Chrysanthemum, is a Japanese film originally titled Zangiku monogatari.  It is based on the Shofu Muramatsu novel of the same name and directed by Kenji Mizoguchi (Sansho the Bailiff, Ugetsu).  It is considered Mizoguchi’s best film made prior to WWII.  In fact, of his seven films on the They Shoot Pictures Don’t They list it’s the only one made prior to 1952.  It tells a simple, but timeless tale of love and achievement.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Movie – Daybreak (1939)

Daybreak (aka Le jour se leve) is the second French film I am reviewing as part of my A Great Year for Movies – 1939 category.  The other was the more famous The Rules of the Game.  Both of them were controversial and both ended up being banned by the French Vichy government during WWII for being either immoral or demoralizing.  Being banned has probably led to both being better remembered today.  Why was Daybreak considered demoralizing and immoral?  Well, it starts right out with one man murdering another…and the murderer is the lead character in the film.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Movie – Ninotchka (1939)

As you can see from the poster to the right this film was marketed as “Garbo Laughs”.  Although popular with audiences she had a reputation for playing stern or melancholy characters in dramas and melodramas.  This marketing plan was quite successful, but also misleading.  Greta Garbo had laughed onscreen in quite a few of her movies – Queen Christina (1933) comes to mind – but she had not been in a big out and out comedy.  With a co-writing credit from Billy Wilder and direction from Ernst Lubitsch Garbo was certainly in good hands.  This is a predictable, but entertaining, movie.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Movie – Only Angels Have Wings (1939)

In the crowded year that was 1939 Only Angels Have Wings still managed to get two Oscar nominations.  It didn’t win either of them, but this isn’t the kind of film that would really win Oscars anyway.  This is far more Adventure Theater than Masterpiece Theater.  It has manly men performing daring feats of flying and the women who love/lust after them.  It is directed by Howard Hawks who had a talent for comedy, drama, and adventure.  This is a film that should certainly entertain you.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Movie – Stagecoach (1939)

Stagecoach was the first of many collaborations between director John Ford and actor John Wayne.  It was very influential both in presentation and plot.  The concept of having a group of people in a hostile situation, some of them with secrets, has been used many times since, in almost every setting.  There’s an adage that says that a villain is the hero of his own story.  Well, the travelers aren’t really villains, but what Stagecoach gets right is that each of them is the lead of their own story.  They just happen to come together on a stagecoach that is traversing hostile territory.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Movie – Gone with the Wind (1939)

Gone with the Wind, based on the Margaret Mitchell novel of the same name, was the pop culture phenomenon of the late 1930s.  The book had created a sensation when it came out, and almost immediately people started talking about making a movie from it.  There was no doubt in people’s minds who should play Rhett Butler – Clark Gable.  On the other hand, the casting of Scarlett O’Hara has become the stuff of legend – so much so, that no one alive today even knows the true story anymore of exactly how Vivien Leigh got the part.

Monday, December 1, 2014

November Movie Status

I watched 32 new movies in November, plus rewatched 1 movie, plus watched a TV miniseries/season. 

I continued to work on the They Shoot Pictures Don’t They list.  I passed 900 of the 1,000 entries.  As of this writing I have 83 left to see.  And after a year of trying to get Heimat from Netflix they moved it to Unavailable status this month.  I appealed for help in getting it to watch and a very kind person was able to do that for me.  I finally knocked off the longest entry on the list – all 16 hours of it.  I now have only one entry longer than 2.5 hours left and only ten longer than 2 hours.

I once again worked on completing directors with at least four entries on the list.  In November I finished off the last of: 7 von Sternberg, 15 Bunuel, 7 Mizoguchi, 5 Melville, 5 McCarey, 8 Huston, and 9 Scorcese.  I still have 17 more directors like this to go (out of 77), including the two with the most entries – Godard and Ford.

Here are the 32 new movies I saw in November.  Highlighted films are ones to which I would give at least three stars out of five.