Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS (2011)
Surprisingly cute romantic comedy pretending it's not a romantic comedy. Two young people become friends, decide they can also have sex with each other without getting emotionally attached, and, well, you know where that goes because you've seen movies before and you know that Hollywood abhors a romantic vacuum. It's fun getting there, even despite the movie's insistence that flash mobs are somehow fun, interesting, or romantic; seriously, a flash mob is what finally entices Justin Timberlake to move to New York early in the film, when it would have had me running back to the airport. Anyway, Timberlake and Mila Kunis are both sexy, high energy comic actors, and they have good chemistry together, and it feels like a movie that's more fun that it has a right to be. Richard Jenkins is good (as he always is) as Timberlake's father. ***

DO DETECTIVES THINK? (1927) ***
PUTTING PANTS ON PHILIP (1927) ***
YOU'RE DARN TOOTIN' (1928) ***
TWO TARS (1928) ****
HABEAS CORPUS (1929) **1/2
BIG BUSINESS (1929) ****
DOUBLE WHOOPEE (1929) ***
ANGORA LOVE (1929) **1/2
A bunch of silent Laurel and Hardy shorts that showed up on TCM last week. I do adore Laurel and Hardy. Of this group, my favorites were Two Tars and Big Business, mainly because my favorite L&H shorts are the ones where the two engage in retributive destruction. In both, they retaliate against someone destroying their things by causing an equal--and steadily escalating--amount of destruction.

SOUL SURFER (2011)
The true story of Bethany Hamilton, a champion surfer who lost her arm to a shark and--if I'm going by what I saw in this surprisingly overlong movie--was a little bummed out about it for a while. It's weird how this movie doesn't really go to the emotional depths of tragedy, and as a result, the emotional highs it wants you to experience don't really resonate. What I mainly learned about Bethany Hamilton is that she lost her arm but it was okay because she loved Jesus. AnnaSophia Robb at least wears a lot of bikinis--I know that's not supposed to be the focus, but I work with what movies give me. None of the actors really have much to work with, and even then Carrie Underwood proves that, as an actor, she's a mediocre singer. The flick's kind of there for way too long and then gone and forgotten. I hope this doesn't come across like I'm slamming the real Bethany Hamilton or something. I'm just looking at a movie and getting bored out of my mind by it. **

TRUMBO (2007)
An interesting look at the blacklisted writer, filtered through the eyes of his son and the touching performances of several actors. This documentary--crossed with a stage piece--uses Dalton Trumbo's words in interviews and letters to examine the ramifications of Hollywood's shameful blacklist on Trumbo's personal life. It's a more intimate look at how it affected not just his career, but his relationship with his family, his community, and his country. I was quite moved by it. ****

THE PROSPECTING BEAR (1941)
A Rudy Ising Barney the Bear cartoon; honestly, I think it's the first I've ever seen. It doesn't stand out much for me in a time of Donald Duck and Tom and Jerry, but it was cute. I sure love that burro. ***

MARY AND MAX (2009)
A poignant, touching film about a surprising pen-pal relationship between a young Australian girl and an older, autistic New Yorker that carries on for 20 years. There are a lot of themes touched on here--obesity, child neglect, depression, social anxieties--but at its core it's about the way friendship can take us by surprise and take us to places we never imagined our lives would go. Adam Elliot's films are always darkly witty, and his first feature doesn't feel padded or compromised; his sense of humor is still evident, as is his ability to make you feel sad and uplifted at the same time. Beautiful work. Excellent voiceovers, too, particularly Philip Seymour Hoffman and narrator Barry Humphries. ****

3 comments:

Tallulah Morehead said...

I am a Laurel & Hardy fanatic. Big Business and Two Tars are generally held to be their two best silent shorts. The Big Business house still stands (Frog, see then & Now photo of it I posted on my Facebook page yesterday), and looks very much the same. The little old lady who lives in it knows its cinematic history, and is always happy to see the tourists that come to look at the outside and snap pictures of it. She has a framed photo from the film in her living room.

The stretch of road the Two Tars traffic jam was shot on was right by the home of close friends 20 years ago, so I used to drive it all the time, always thinking of Two Tars as I went by. (It's right near the Santa Monica Airport.)

Putting Pants on Phillip is, obviously, very early L&H, as their characters were not established yet, and they are very different than we think of them. Stan's rection to having his inseam measurement forcibly taken is hilarious. To him, he's just suffered male rape, and is forever soiled. After 1933, they'd never have gotten away with that movie, where women faint at the sight of Stan's butt.

The shin-kicking, pants-ripping sequence in You're Darn Tootin' always kills me.

Habeaus Corpus is the worst of these, standard scardey-cat comedy, tiresome.

Angora Love was remade with a dog instead of a goat in the talkies as Laughing Gravy.

How could you not mention Jean Harlow's memorable appearance in Double Whoopie? The guy who looks like Eric Von Strohiem in it was Von Strohiem's usual stand-in/camera double. No film scholars have been able to discover his name. Even when interviewing folks who worked on the film, no one remembered this guy's name. The desk clerk is Rolfe Sedan. Check out his IMDb resume. He worked in a million things, mostly comedy. He had a recurring role as Gracie's post man on The Burns & Allen TV show, showed up as different characters on The Jack Benny Show all the time, was a dithery mad scientist on The Adventures of Superman with George Reeves, he's the train conductor in Young Frankenstein, he recurred as the postman on The Addams Family, he's in A Night at the opera (one of the aviators whose beard Harpo steals), Mad Love, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The Wizard of Oz, Topper Takes a Trip, etc. This list has well over 150 titles. I love Rolfe.

I take my L&H seriously. One of the few times I ever felt like I was on Holy Ground was when I climbed the Vendome Stairs that L&H carried the piano up and down in their Oscar-winning short: The Music Box. (I carried a small, toy piano in one hand. It was a religious experience.)

SamuraiFrog said...

That explains why the plot of Angora Love seemed so familiar; I kept watching it thinking I'd seen it before.

Habeas Corpus was so dull, and it just sat right there in the middle of these other great shorts. I'm not into the scaredy-cat comedies (unless they star Donald Duck).

I didn't realize that was Eric Von Stroheim's stand-in, and I'm so glad to find out that it was. I just thought it was funny that they were doing a parody of Von Stroheim, but knowing he was, in a way, the next best thing to Von Stroheim himself just makes it funnier to me.

Tallulah Morehead said...

Those would be "Scaredey-Duck comedies," and I too find scaredey-cat comedy generally tiresome. The only one who could pull those off and make me laugh is Lou Costello. L&H didn't do many, but they did a few (The Laurel & Hardy Murder Case, Oliver the Eighth, The Live Ghost) and there's a lox of a scardey-cat comedy sequence stuck right in the middle of their otherwise wonderful feature A Chump at Oxford, and one has to endure it for the delight of seeing Stan & Ollie share the screen with Peter Cushing.