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Best of Breed
Airplane! sets the standard for the film genre of lampoon. Nothing equals the number of genuine laughs per minute. This is one of those great movies that one can recite from beginning to end. One movie link which must be mentioned is Julie (1956) in which Doris Day as the title character has to land an airliner after the crew has been incapacitated. The uncanny resemblance is hilarious. One trivia note which should be mentioned is that the "makeup lady" is played by Charlotte Zucker, the mother of David and Jerry. She has cameo parts in a number of other comedies.
Woody Allen's best comedy
This is one of Woody Allen's earliest films -which should rank with the all-time greatest comedies. Although it was made back when the trial of The Chicago Seven was still fresh and Tobacco was still advertised on television, Bananas is timeless and still topical: J. Edgar Hoover in drag; the CIA sending US troops to fight on both sides of a revolution because they are afraid of being on the wrong side. One can usually recall a few scenes from a good movie, but Bananas is one of those great movies which one can replay in the mind from beginning to end. (Bananas is neatly bracketed at the beginning and end by Howard Cossell playing himself in bizarre Wide World of Sports coverages.) Allen has total control as writer, director and lead actor as in his later films, but in Bananas, the humor is broader and more cinematic. He plays the nebbish Fielding Mellish with less of the existential whining that mars his later films. There is a youthful resiliance like a toy punching bag that keeps coming back up. That is what made Chaplin's little tramp both comical and endearing.
Apur Sansar (1959)
A radical departure from the formula films of the 50's.
About midway through Apur Sansar there is an interjection of a film in the style of typical Indian cinema. The contrast in Ray's approach with his classic trilogy is astonishing, considering the mileau in which it emerged. Filmmaking in the 1950's in Hollywood as well as India was studio-driven with light-weight stories having little connection with reality. As another commentator pointed out, this film is closer to the Italian realism films such as "The Bicycle Thief". Every shot is a masterpiece of composition and lighting. It does not intrude on the story, but advances it. Likewise, the music composed by Ray, is natural and integral to the scene. This ranks with the all-time greatest watershed movies.
The General (1926)
Variable versions of The General
I had the privilege of seeing the restoration of the film "The General" in Munich in the 60's. Buster Keaton came to the the premier. He didn't go into the theater, but he was rewarded by the sound of the audience. Recently, I viewed a video tape of the movie, and was disappointed that it was not from the restored version which had excellent picture and sound quality. One should take care in choosing among available copies.
The film is not like the stage original.
As a rule, film adaptations of stage musicals suffer in comparison with the original. "Annie" is no exception, but the reasons are intriguing. The musical "Annie" is only nominally based on the comic strip/radio adventure series, but is primarily an homage to and a caricature of Shirley Temple movies such as "Curly Top" and "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm", made during the years of the Great Depression. Those movies held the promise that even an impoverished orphan with pluck and optimism could charm her way into the heart of an unimaginably wealthy benefactor. Ironically, many of those movies, such as "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm", were themselves nominally based on stage and literature pieces. Adapting Shirley Temple movies to the musical stage was relatively easy because they were not very cinematic; little more than song and dance routines showcasing her talent. Transferring "Annie" from the stage to the screen was a problem that the director solved by drawing more from the comic strip and adventure series, in which the villains were more vile and the perils more perilous. Hence, the climactic bridge scene, which, most agree, darkens and departs from the spirit of the original.
Come Back, Africa (1959)
One of my all-time favorites
This film on apartheid in South Africa established Lionel Rogosin as master of cinema verite. The use of actual settings and non-professional actors in telling a story set a tone of reality far beyond any movies of the time. The images are still haunting five decades later.
Good Times, Wonderful Times (1966)
A classic independent film
Lionel Rogosin's antiwar film predated Viet Nam, but had great impact in the sixties. The film cuts between documentary war footage and extemporized conversations. Rogosin was the epitome of the independent film-maker whose style has been much imitated.