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It goes on and on . . .
I had to get up at 3:30 a.m. to take my friend to work. Then, around 4:15, I turned on the television, thinking it would help me get back to sleep. It didn't. There was an old Joan Crawford film on TCM, and I became fascinated.
At the point where I came in, Louise (the Joan character) was confronted by Dean Graham (Raymond Massey), who was unhappy about her having been out when his wife, Pauline, threw another tantrum. Louise is a nurse hired to take care of Pauline (whom we never see). It's Louise's day off, but she goes upstairs and takes some guff from Pauline. I don't know why I didn't turn off the television right then.
Louise is in love with David (Van Heflin). He has fallen out of love with her, but she can't accept that. She keeps on chasing him, even after she has killed Pauline - or thinks she has - and married Dean. David, meanwhile, is courting Dean's teenage daughter, Carol. This makes Louise furious, because she still wants David for herself. That's why she married Dean. Does this make any sense? It goes on and on like that. Every once in a while, she will go to a psychiatrist. But then she keeps on doing crazy things....
A friend of mine had rented this, so I watched it with him and another friend and none of us fell asleep. One problem with the story is that it lacks a setting. The boys' haircuts are 1970s, but the nun's habit is 1950s. We don't see the boys' parents at all, so I guess this is supposed to be a residential school. But we don't see the boys in the dormitory either, not that I remember.
The performances of the young actors are good, but much of the action seems unmotivated. The boys think of something to do, like kidnapping a mountain lion from a zoo, then they go ahead and do it without asking why or considering any consequences. Do today's youth behave that way? I hope not.
The adult characters (nun and priest)are shallow. One boy has some serious questions to discuss, and the priest advises him to pray the Lord's Prayer. When the nun confiscates a book of William Blake that a boy is reading, she fails to explain why--other than saying Blake was a "dangerous thinker." I don't know any priests or nuns who are like that. Oh well, it's only a movie. . . .
James Dean (2001)
James Franco IS James Dean
"East of Eden" came out when I was 21 and very impressionable, and from then on I was a James Dean fanatic. So were most of my friends, but we didn't see his other two films until after his death. We identified with the roles he played. Cal Trask, Jim Stark, and Jett Rink were just as mixed up and insecure as we were, and James Dean could play those guys because he was mixed up, too. After we saw "Rebel," all of us wanted red jackets like the one he wore in that movie.
In this new movie, a young actor named James Franco plays James Dean, and he beautifully conveys not only the angst and many of the distinctive mannerisms but also some of James Dean's offbeat humor. I suppose one reason Franco was chosen to play Dean is that he looks like him. Not a lot, but there is a resemblance. He could have done a caricature of Dean, but happily he didn't fall into that trap.
Some of the writing was disappointing. The actress who plays Pier Angeli is beautiful and quite good, but what can you do with lines like "You don't understand" and "My mama won't let me"? Those are not her exact lines, but you get what I'm saying.
Dean's relationship with Jack Warner is well done. Also his relationship, or rather his lack of a relationship, with his father. But I kept wishing they'd show more about the making of the films. How did he relate to Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, Carol Baker, Sal Mineo, Natalie Wood? And what were the films about? If I didn't already know James Dean's films, I still wouldn't know much about them after seeing this biography. But maybe I would be inspired to check them out.
Happy Land (1943)
I liked it when I was 10
Saw this movie with my family in 1943 at age 10. We all liked it, even though it made us sad. Seems like it starts with Rusty already dead, killed in the war. Then there are flashbacks to his childhood. What it said to me back then was: war makes no sense. I'm not sure that's what was intended.
A Summer Place (1959)
Could be worse
When "A Summer Place" opened in 1959, I was already so sick of the theme song, which was played constantly on the radio, that I avoided seeing the movie. But recently I happened to catch part of "A Summer Place" on the Turner Classic Movies channel and found out I really like it in some sort of way. The actors are beautiful, all of them, and the story can be enjoyed in the way that one enjoys a soap opera and then forgotten about.
Fibber McGee and Molly (1959)
Something of a flop
The Fibber McGee and Molly TV series never caught on, probably because it didn't have Jim Jordan and Marian Jordan, the original stars of the classic 1935-1959 radio show. People remembered the Jordans too well and could not accept other actors in the roles of Fibber and Molly.
Fantasia 2000 (1999)
Gershwin, Beethoven, and Dukas segments are fun
I didn't care much for the flying whales in The Pines of Rome, the flamingos playing with yoyos in Carnival of Animals, or some of the other images that seem not to fit the music in Fantasia 2000. But the Gershwin segment is great: Rhapsody in Blue, with cartoon images of mid-20th century New York. The images in the Beethoven segment are nice too. They look like abstract birds and butterflies. And it was fun seeing Mickey again as The Sorcerer's Apprentice. That's the only segment from the original Fantasia film that's in this new movie.
Man on the Moon (1999)
The first time I saw Andy Kaufman, he was a standup comic on tv doing jokes with no punch lines. I found him hysterically funny and so did the studio audience. What was funny about Andy is that (except in "Taxi") he really wasn't funny. That was the whole point. We knew he was putting us on. Later, like in that whole wrestling thing, it was hard to know when he was putting us on and when he wasn't.
I love this film. Jim Carrey is great as Andy. He not only looks like him, but he gets inside him. After I left the movie theater, I had a feeling of unreality for several hours. And I kept thinking: Andy Kaufman is alive. His death never happened. It was just another part of his performance.
Roughly Speaking (1945)
Genuinely funny comedy
Until I happened to catch it on the Turner Classic Movies channel, I'd never heard of Roughly Speaking. It turns out to be a charming and genuinely funny romantic comedy, set during the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, and the 1939-40 New York World's Fair. Roz Russell and Jack Carson, as a married couple raising a family, keep us wondering what crazy scheme they will cook up next in order to survive hard times. Their optimism is contagious. This family laughs a lot, especially when everything is going wrong, and it's real laughter--the kind that makes me laugh along with them. The ending seemed kind of abrupt, but apart from that, I found this movie great fun and often quite touching.
East Side Kids (1940)
I'm glad I decided to ignore Leonard Maltin's really bad review and buy this video. Not that it's really good, but it has much that I like. True, it has none of the original Dead End Kids and very little humor. But it's my first time to see Harris Berger, the actor who replaced Huntz Hall in the Broadway version of Dead End when Huntz went to Hollywood to be in the movie version, and Hally Chester. Frankie Burke is good, too--that kid from Angels With Dirty Faces who looks so much like James Cagney.